Bradley Village Board

As Illinois enters its third week of Phase 3 of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s reopening plan and Phase 4 possibly coming by month’s end, the question turns to when will local governmental entities return to meeting in public in front of an audience of the residents they represent?

BRADLEY — Following through on its pledge when they asked voters to approve a 1 percentage point increase in Bradley’s sales tax rate, the village board approved a flat tax levy.

The $2.2 million levy, approved this week by a 5-0 vote, will pump extra money into the underfunded police and fire pension funds.

And as also promised, Bradley residents will receive a rebate on half of the village’s portion of their property taxes. Bradley finance director Rob Romo explained after this week’s village board meeting that the refunds will likely come in June.

While final details of the tax rebate are still being finalized, Romo said the rebate will come either through a 50 percent reduction of the tax bill or a residents can apply for a rebate check.

“This [sales tax hike] is desperately needed to fund the fire and police pensions better. We are digging a deeper and deeper hole,” he said of the previous pension allocations.

Romo said only the minimum amount of funds have been put into these accounts and throughout the years the funds were losing ground. Romo noted the police pension is now $13.9 million behind. The fire pension, a much smaller fund because the village force is mainly volunteer or paid on-call, is $1.5 million behind.

Romo noted as recently as 2015, the police fund was $9 million behind. Five year later, the deficit has grown to just under $14 million.

The longer the village waits to address the deficit, he said, the more critical the problem becomes.

Romo projects the village will pump $1,574,389 into the police fund, up from the $1,120,000 put into the fund in 2019. The fire fund will see a village contribution of $240,191, up from $190,000.

Mayor Pro Tem Mike Watson said it is simply not acceptable to have this type of debt. He noted the state is mandating that by 2040 police and fire pension are to be at the 90 percent level. He noted currently the village is at 58 percent funding of the police pension and 50 percent for fire.

“I’m happy with the direction. These pension funds are important.”