Pension Issues Weigh On Lake Forest, Lake Bluff Budgets

While both Lake Bluff President Christine Letchinger and Lake Forest Mayor James Cowhey said they are managing through the crisis, it remains a line item that won't go away anytime soon.


Scranton, Pa.

San Bernardino, Calif.

The list continues to grow of communities filing for bankruptcy or whose budgets are severely impacted by a variety of factors, including suffocating pension programs that carve out signifcant money.

and are nowhere near that point, but pension programs are definitely on their radar.

Both Lake Bluff President Christine Letchinger and Lake Forest Mayor James Cowhey addressed the issue during Wednesday's annual Municipal Update at the monthly luncheon at in Lake Forest.

Letchinger, who has served as village president since 2005 and said she does not plan to run again in April, indicated Lake Bluff pays more than $600,000 in pension funds.

She noted that for a village of less than 6,000 residents, Lake Bluff offers services that towns their size would not normally have, such as a full-time police department, a fire department, a library, a school district, park district and swim pool. Letchinger said the full-time police department could become more of a budget issue as smaller communities coupled with a sagging real estate market struggle to find more sources of revenue.

Cowhey, who became Mayor in 2009 after serving as Fourth Ward alderman for six years, believes communities that have budgeted conservatively will weather the pension issue.

However, his concern is focused on how state government will pay the billions of dollars in pension funds

"One of the bigger issues on my mind is will the state try to steal more monies from the municipalties?" Cowhey said. "It's something we're certainly aware of. When (City Manager) Bob Kiely and I sit down to talk about our financial outlook going forward, I always say, 'Let's put some money aside' because we don't know what's going to happen at the state level."

Both Letchinger and Cowhey believe their respective downtowns are holding their own against a rollarcoaster economy. Cowhey cited 16 new businesses in Lake Forest with more coming, including two to fill out the East Last Forest Train Station.

Letchinger said in creating its current downtown it didn't happen on the first attempt. "We failed twice before we got it right," she said. And the village's continued survival comes from business owners who are willing to "speak their mind" in looking for other ways to promote the village.

To that end, Lake Bluff will embark on a branding campaign as part of its strategic initiatives geared at both businesses and new residents. Letchinger said the village is experiencing a "graying" effect with 50 percent of the population age 50 or higher due to a real estate market that hasn't been inviting to younger families.

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uscfan July 13, 2012 at 03:18 PM
Didn't Lake Bluffs city manager get 20+% pay increase and loan forgiveness on his city provided home mortgage? Any why is there a police chief and deputy chief? And we cant get garbage pick up, fix our pool, or get officers to catch speeders on our street???
Fran July 13, 2012 at 09:49 PM
Has anyone looked at the cost a household is paying for police pensions, approximately $100.00 a year. That is $100.00 well spent. Have we forgotten about the man that was in the fire and was saved by our police officers. Our community is next door to communities that are having problems with gangs and shootings. We all need to look at what Lake Bluff is now and what it could be with what is being suggested. Francis
Mike July 16, 2012 at 01:22 AM
Having been born and raised in Lake Bluff and falling in love with the many things that Lake Bluff had to offer I decided to raise my family here. Now I see many changes taking place that I am not happy with. Why are my services being cut? So our Village Manager can keep giving himself pay raises, and we can pay his mortgage? Cut my tax bill, and NOT MY SERVICES! We will move if this continues!
bsmith July 20, 2012 at 12:13 AM
The Village President is directing business to her husband's firm, she claimed it was recommended by the Villager Manager. The Villager Manager has been paid over $35,000 for his vehicle expense( He lives 4 houses away for Village Hall) since he started. That's what we cannot afford!
Think harder September 14, 2012 at 12:24 AM
Absoultely NOT! sharing services is an opportunity for increased conflict. we share a HS. Look at that dysfunctional mess. that is quite enough. I want nothing from LF- not their overhead or their debt or their transfer taxes for RE transactions for buyers. keep it!


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