BRADLEY — Due to hot-running revenues in Bradley — most notably sales tax figures — Bradley may be the only municipality in Illinois to have its police and fire pension funds fully funded.
At Monday’s Bradley Village Board meeting, the board unanimously approved the request of finance director Rob Romo to amend its Fiscal Year 2021 budget as a result of surging revenues which will result in a budget surplus of $4,767,431.
As a result of these positive figures, Bradley will soon transfer $1,501,894 into its fire pension fund to bring it to 100 percent funding at $3.2 million.
As a result of board action in early February, the board moved to fully funded the $34 million police pension fund by selling $11.8 million of pension obligation bonds to fill a $10.5 million hole in the fund. These bonds are to be repaid in 20 years.
In the year of the COVID-19-induced pandemic, Bradley is bucking the trend and reaping the benefits of a strong retail base — anchored by a collection of retailers deemed essential.
Revenues have outpaced expenses at such a pace that Romo is projecting a budget surplus of nearly $4.8 million and all but $1,164,431 of the surplus is being plugged into the existing budget.
In addition to transferring $1.5 million into the fire pension account, the village board also OK’d:
• Transferring $1 million from its general fund to the capital projects fund to pay for the new fire station at 1690 Newtowne Drive.
• Transferring $600,000 to pay for police vehicles, accounting software and road improvements.
• Transferring $500,000 to pay toward the planned Lil’s Park splash pad.
Michael McCue, president of the Bradley Fire Pension Fund, was asked to attend the meeting without any knowledge as to why.
Shortly after the meeting began, McCue was called to the front of the board room to receive an oversized check of $1,501,894 made payable to the pension account and dated March 8, 2021.
After the meeting, McCue was all smiles.
“This is a huge relief. This has been a long time coming. I would have never thought I would have come to see this account at 100 percent funding,” he said.
Mayor Pro Tem Mike Watson said he thought the village would get through the pandemic in good shape, but he didn’t believe it would be quite this positive. He said while increased sales taxes, in part due to shopping and in part due to the recent voter-approved 1 percentage-point increase in the village’s portion of the tax.
“I was confident this would work,” he said of village’s plan. He noted the entire village administration and the employees are responsible for the turnaround.
He also noted the village made changes in the way it operated, doing things such as closing its police dispatch center and going the countywide system as well as general belt-tightening.
Romo noted the village administration conservatively estimated the new sales-tax increase would bring in per month an additional $250,000. Instead it is bringing in $385,000. Over a 12-month period that type of revenue generates $4.6 million.
Romo noted he is in the early stages of crafting the Fiscal Year 2022 budget. “We are rocking on all cylinders.”
He acknowledged that the pandemic and the stay-at-home mandates caused him great concern, but once the village made it through a rocky March and April, the skies have been bright over the village.
“It’s been our goal to make Bradley a better place to live and work,” Romo said. “I believe we are the only town in Illinois with 100 percent police and fire pension funds. A lot of hard work and smart decisions went into this. This has been an almost full financial turnaround.”