Below is a recent article from the Chicago Tribune on the “State of the City” address that I presented at City Hall last week.
In the address, I emphasize our commitment to maintaining a balanced budget and the City’s Aaa credit rating, as well as investing in our City’s infrastructure. I also discuss how we are preparing for the significant fiscal impacts of state-mandated pension parameters and the threat of the State of Illinois shifting its financial burdens to local governments.
We as a City are dedicated to providing high quality services and planning for the future for our residents, businesses and visitors.
As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to contact me or David Knapp, City Manager of Highland Park (firstname.lastname@example.org 847-926-1000).
Rotering delivers State of the City address
March 07, 2013|By John P. Huston, Chicago Tribune reporter
In her State of the City address, Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering stressed keeping an eye on Springfield as the city manages its local budget. (John P. Huston, Chicago Tribune)
Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering provided a none-too-subtle jab at state lawmakers in her State of the City address.
She criticized the General Assembly for its management of public safety pension programs and echoed a fear, shared by many Chicago-area municipal leaders, that the state may raid local revenues to cover its budget shortfalls.
Rotering, in her Feb. 25 address, said Highland Park’s city budget is balanced but blamed the recent tax levy increase on rising pension obligations for firefighters and police officers.
“Exponentially increasing public safety pension fund obligations mandated by the state, but funded by the city, has the potential to impact the long-term sustainability of our funds,” Rotering said. “We are absolutely dedicated to provide a secure retirement to our first responders who are not eligible to receive Social Security, but the current level of state-mandated funding parameters threatens the very security of those retirement funds and will diminish critical operating dollars for the city going forward.”
Recently, Finance Director Nikki Winikates told the council that the city’s fire and police pension funds were about 55 percent funded as of Dec. 31, 2011 – the most recent audited figures. Including pension bonds in the general fund, fire is funded at 74 percent and police at 69 percent, Winikates said, which puts Highland Park in good shape compared with other municipalities. All are required to be 100 percent funded by 2040.
Rotering said the city’s tax levy in December will result in an average increase of $34 to property tax bills.
“Let me stress – we had no need to increase this property tax levy for our city operations,” Rotering said. “However, we will not kick the can down the road on our pension obligations.”
Another area of concern regarding the General Assembly is a risk that local revenues owed to municipalities will be essentially withheld by the state to cover its shortfalls.
“Preserving our fiscal stability and protecting our revenues from a state government interested in shifting its own financial burdens to local taxpayers are critical goals in 2013,” said Rotering, stressing the importance of a healthy reserve “available for one-time investments, giving us the flexibility to invest in overdue infrastructure needs and, if needed, to navigate unexpected fiscal challenges.”
She highlighted the city’s commitment to several infrastructure improvement goals, such as water main replacement, resurfaced roads and expanded sidewalks. She also noted a recent renovation at the public library and a $30 million water treatment plant improvement project that broke ground last month.
Among a list of 85 goals the City Council outlined in January is a business development strategic plan, aimed at attracting and retaining new retailers and commercial opportunities. Rotering said sales tax provides 42 percent of the city’s general fund revenue.
“That’s critical,” Rotering said.
Through October, the city took in $10.25 million in sales tax revenue in 2012. It budgeted $12.1 million, compared to the $11.78 million generated in 2011, according to unaudited city numbers.
“We as a council are planning and investing for the future of our city,” Rotering said. “We’ve made important changes to our own operations to ensure responsible, professional oversight, transparency and high-quality service.”