In recent weeks, the Village of North Riverside has presented its proposed budget for next year, which projects an operating budget deficit of $1.9 million. A full $1.8 million of this deficit is a direct result of the Village’s growing public pension obligation, which we have not fully funded. In fact, the State Department of Insurance has summoned the Village to a hearing next week, June 26th to explain how our Village plans to resolve this issue.
Further, a new State law requires that all municipalities fully fund their annual public pension requirements by 2016. If North Riverside does not comply, legislation passed by the Illinois General Assembly allows the State to take our sales tax to fulfill this pension obligation. This would be devastating to our town as more than 60 percent of our general operating funds come from this important revenue source.
North Riverside prides itself on providing top-notch municipal services even with minimal reliance on property taxes. The lives, homes and businesses of our Village are our most important assets, and we will always put the health and safety of our community first—even as we face the same extremely challenging economic times confronting communities throughout Illinois and the State itself.
The good news is we have an excellent solution – one that allows us to fulfill the state mandate while keeping the strongest emergency and fire protection services in place without having to sacrifice other Village services or seek unaffordable tax increases.
The North Riverside Fire Department currently includes 16 firefighters who are municipal employees of the Village and represented by the International Association of Firefighters Local 2714, as well as six paramedic/firefighters contracted through Paramedic Services of Illinois (PSI) since 1985. These PSI paramedics have worked side-by-side with our firefighters to provide Village residents and businesses with essential emergency services that are skilled, responsive and often lifesaving.
We are seeking a proposal to extend our contractual services partnership with PSI to include fire protection services and prevent layoffs. We have specifically requested and PSI has agreed, as part of their proposal, to keep all current North Riverside firefighters, preserving their current base salaries, earned pension benefits and current health insurance, while allowing the Village to substantially reduce the adverse impact of future pension obligations imposed by the State. All firefighters would not only keep their jobs and current fire pension, but also start earning another retirement benefit through a PSI 401k. This approach will generate savings of more than $700,000 per year for North Riverside.
PSI paramedics, who have been saving lives in North Riverside for more than 28 years, are also trained firefighters and moving forward, PSI will provide cross-training to current North Riverside firefighters so eventually all will be certified to provide both services in our Village.
Rest assured that you will continue to receive the top-quality paramedic and fire services we have become accustomed to in our wonderful Village.
For more information, please call the Village Commons at 708-447-4211 and ask for Village Administrator Guy Belmonte, or leave a message for me and I will return the call or email, should you have any questions.