Like so many local government leaders throughout Illinois, Wheaton city officials are desperate to do something about the city’s uncontrollable police and firefighter pension costs. The unfunded liabilities of the city’s public safety pension funds have jumped to $56 million over the past 15 years, and that’s despite major increases in taxpayer contributions into the funds.
Wheaton officials’ solution to the problem? Borrow more money. They’re considering a scheme using Pension Obligation Bonds, or POBs, that would let them gamble with taxpayer money in an attempt to improve pension finances. It’s simply a bad idea, especially in Illinois, where fiscal mismanagement and corruption are rampant.
Several Illinois cities have recently borrowed tens of millions via POBs, including the cities of McHenry and Freeport, and so has the Addison Fire Protection District, which took on $34 million in new debt. They’re all betting they can earn more in the financial markets than the interest costs of the loan they took out.
Official Wheaton board minutes reveal the city is also considering borrowing millions via POBs. Bankers from Baird and Marquette Associates have presented the idea, with Baird showing examples of Wheaton borrowing $56 million, equal to the city’s entire public safety pension shortfall.
Author(s): Ted Dabrowski
Publication Date: 20 April 2021
Publication Site: Wirepoints