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Springfield Mayor issues rare pension ordinance veto

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The Mayor of Springfield (Illinois, U.S.), Jim Langfelder, has issued a rare veto as he urged city council members not to repeal an ordinance passed last year diverting excess funds towards the city’s growing police and fire pension obligations

Springfield (Illinois, U.S.) Mayor Jim Langfelder issued a rare veto Tuesday afternoon as he urged city council members not to repeal an ordinance passed last year diverting excess funds towards the city’s growing police and fire pension obligations.

The initial ordinance was passed last year. It would have required additional payments towards pensions when the city’s corporate fund balance was above 16 percent.

But, seeking more flexibility given the uncertainty surrounding the closure of three City Water, Light and Power coal-fired power plants and the possible impact it might have on future city budgets, council members voted two weeks ago to increase the corporate fund balance required to trigger a payment to 20 percent.

However, in a message sent to aldermen less than an hour before Tuesday’s council meeting, Langfelder requested that the council “not make this change.” Instead, Langfelder offered amended language that would keep the 16 percent number, but require the city council to vote on an additional payment instead of it being automatic.

This way, it’s a win, win for everybody, it’s a win, win for us taking a responsible step forward to pay down our pensions, Langfelder said. We can do so collectively by assessing from our budget what’s the right amount every year, but leaving the baseline at 16 percent.

Langfelder noted that the city’s fund balance rarely hits the 20 percent level, “so it’s almost putting into code that you’re taking some type of action when in reality, there’s no action.”

The mayor did not consult with the council prior to issuing the veto, with Ward 10 Ald. Ralph Hanauer, the ordinance’s sponsor, saying he found out at the same time as his colleagues. Hanauer said he intends to call for an override of Langfelder’s veto at the next council meeting in a few weeks.

It’s about not forcing something when we’re in tight budget times, Hanauer said. I’m not against putting money towards pensions, but I think that instead of it just automatically going through, I think we should look at it and adjust accordingly based on what’s coming up in our future budgets.

Over the years, council members have taken a number of steps meant to make a dent in the city’s pension hole, such as using tax revenue from the sales of recreational marijuana and emergency service fees for non-residents.

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