By JAMES MITCHELL
Sunday Times Newspapers
LINCOLN PARK – City officials will have to find other ways to stabilize an underfunded pension system for public safety employees after a proposed millage to secure long-term retirement obligations was narrowly defeated during Tuesday’s general election.
A majority 53 percent cast 1,709 votes against the proposal, with 1,507 approvals.
A similar proposal was put before voters in May and rejected during an election that also featured a state tax proposal that met strong voter opposition.
In spite of the proposal’s potential impact on the city’s stability, Tuesday’s single-issue ballot drew 13 percent voter participation, with 3,223 ballots cast from the nearly 25,000 registered voters.
In placing a similar measure on the November ballot, Emergency Manager Brad Coulter said it would likely be the last attempt to secure funding through a tax levy for pensions and retirements.
Instead, city officials – including recently-hired City Manager Brad Coppler – will need to identify other revenue streams to balance its budget. Without the millage Coulter said it could take up to 30 years for the city to satisfy the long-underfunded pensions.
That shortfall was among the financial issues that last year saw the appointment of Coulter under state-supervised emergency management.
Coulter remains scheduled to end his tenure in January, although Coppler will continue to report to state officials while the city recovers from what had been a $5 million deficit which resulted in state oversight.
(James Mitchell can be reached at email@example.com.)