Monday, September 15, 2008

Pensions Plans May Bankrupt Cities

I'm not saying that pension plans will bankrupt the City of Peoria or Peoria County. But the City has a bigger problem than the County. Columnist George Will wrote in the JS this last week a case history of Vallejo, Calif. citing Mayor Osby Davis, who has lived in this city 60 years. Mayor Davis says "if you have a can that's leaking 2ounces a minute and you put one ounce a minute in it, it will go empty".

That is what happened to this mismanaged city of 120,000 when the City Council finally faced facts and voted 7-0 for bankruptcy. The cris came about partly because each of the cities fireman paid $230 in union dues and policeman paid $254 in union dues EACH month giving their respective unions enormous sums to purchase a compliant City Council. Furthermore, police and firefighters can store up unused vacation and leave time over their careers and walk away, as one of the 20 who recently retired did, with a $370,000.00 check. Last year 292 city employees made more than $100,000.00 a year, not including huge health and retirement benefits. 21 firemen earned over $200,000.00 a year and all firemen and policemen are guaranteed lifetime health benefits after only 5 years of service"

Due to the passing of Proposition 13 in California a number of years ago, Vallejo cannot raise property taxes. In Peoria expect property taxes to escalate rapidly over the next 5 years because we can with 9 or more taxing bodies all raising their tax collection base.

Let's look at my Peoria County property tax bill. In 2006, I paid $408 for Peoria City pensions. In 2007, I paid $444. In 2006, I paid the city $240 for other services. In 2007, I paid the city $224.71 for other services.

In 2006, I paid Peoria County $175.58 for County pensions. In 2007, I paid $198.99. In 2006, I paid the county $415.51 for other services. In 2007, I paid the county $506.35 for other services.

By formula, the city gets about %11 of your paid in property taxes. The county gets about %14 of property taxes. Peoria Public School District collected a staggering %56 of my tax bill including $237.34 up from $176.25 last year.

If those of that read this live in Peoria County you can surely see where we are heading. I asked our administrator to make a 10 year chart on the way we were heading in pension costs to the county. The chart makes a dramatic rise starting about 4 years from now.

Think of all this factual information when you consider on which priorities we should be spending our tax dollars.

I suggest they are on our safety systems, our sewer systems, our infrastructure from bridges to streets to sidewalks, on erosion control including our streams and river, alternate schools including vocational and choice, mental health treatment and prevention, MAINTAINING our money losing public projects like the RiverPlex and zoo, includes stopping the balance of the $125 million dollar expansion, improving our local transportation systems, developing the Innovation Center systems, assisting TRANSPORT to get started, REASONABLE assist to get new "missing" link businesses to get started, selling Bellwood Nursing home with evictions covenants instead of building a new one for $32 million dollars and taking on principle and interest payments on the bond amounting to over $2.1 million a year for 30 years, to name most of the major priorities.

If property taxes continue to escalate, I and a lot of other retirees are going to seek a different type of environment as described in the Week End WSJ such as Bloomington, Indiana.

Read the article entitled, "Young at Heart, a vibrant 39,000 communities that retirees like that way". This community, Bloomington, Ind., also has a FREE museum designed by I.M Pei. Median sales price of a home was $141.000.

In Peoria, the local public schools educational systems will improve little OR none by the building of up to $120 million new schools but even that should be a priority over other enhancements this community is either building or has on the drawing boards.

I first started writing about "Wake Up, Peoria", 10 or more years ago. If you are on a relatively fixed income and pay property taxes (and I should say "worried" about rising taxes; I know many aren't, you better be speaking better out than you did on the $32 million dollar public library referendum). If you noted the publicity given the the libraries participation in school learning systems, I remind you students didn't need new or expanded libraries for that electronic service)

Libraries are usually part of a city but not in Peoria. My library tax rose from $205 in 2006 and to $241 in 2007. I predict $360 by 2010.

And don't forget the "garbage" tax which is really a property tax with lipstick.

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