Illinois’ Capital Spending Plan a “Big Win” for Local Municipalities

Daily Herald, Robert Sanchez Р6/14/2019

The newly appointed leaders of the DuPage Mayors and Managers Conference are calling Illinois’ capital spending plan a “big win” for local municipalities.

Still, they say DuPage’s towns and villages must continue to work together to ensure other legislative priorities are addressed, including consolidating public safety pensions.

Naperville Mayor Steve Chirico recently started his one-year term as president of the conference, which represents 33 municipal governments. Willowbrook Mayor Frank Trilla is serving as vice president.

Chirico said his term is starting “on a great note” after the Illinois legislature recently passed several proposals supported by the conference. For example, the governor is expected to sign legislation to give DuPage municipalities without home rule the ability to spend some of their hotel tax dollars on something other than tourism.

“Overall, the tone in Springfield has been very different this year than what we’ve seen in the past several years,” Chirico said. “There does seem to be a spirit of cooperation that I haven’t seen in a while.”

Trilla said the state’s $45 billion capital spending plan was a “big win” for municipalities.

“Everybody needs infrastructure,” he said. “The investment in infrastructure is one thing we can be happy about.”Chirico said Naperville, for example, is expected to receive an additional $1 million a year for road repairs. “The money is really needed to get the roads back into a condition that’s acceptable,” he said.

However, state lawmakers didn’t address several issues the conference lobbied for.

The conference says the existing system for police and fire pensions is unsustainable because unfunded pension liabilities are continuing to grow significantly. So it’s supporting a proposal to have more than 650 municipal public safety pension funds managed by one board and one fund management company.

If approved, the change would reduce unfunded pension liabilities, stabilize retirement systems and protect against cuts to basic services, according to the conference.

“I think it’s something that will help our public safety employees, the municipalities and the state,” Chirico said.

The conference also wants to ensure sustainable municipal budgets by making sure revenue generated by local residents and businesses stays local.

To fill gaps in its budget, Illinois last year threatened a 10 percent reduction in the amount of state income tax revenue municipalities and counties receive.

The state ended up taking 5 percent of the Local Government Distributive Fund dollars in 2018. That reduction is continuing this year.

DuPage’s municipalities and county government are losing millions of dollars in revenue as a result.

Chirico said Naperville alone lost roughly $700,000. He said that’s money that could be used to pay for essential services, including police and fire protection.

Ultimately, the conference is hoping municipalities get all the money they are entitled to receive.

“We have to be vigilant in the pursuit of funding,” Trilla said. “It’s a constant battle, and it always will be.”