Mundelein spends more than $300K on welcome signs

Mundelein spends more than $300K on welcome signs

The Lake County village will tap into its savings account to help cover the costs.

Mundelein trustees voted April 23 to replace the gateway signage that welcomes traffic into the Lake County village. But the cost of the investment might sideswipe Mundelein taxpayers.

Passing by a 4-2 vote, the contract awarded to Quantum Sign Corp. will see the village furnished with nine welcome signs and one electronic police sign for $347,930.

Funds to cover the contract will come from the village’s savings, as well as the police department’s asset seizure fund, according to the Daily Herald.

The village currently has six wooden signs, which were installed more than 20 years ago. But the new signs will be comprised of stone and metal, according to the Mundelein Review.

Mundelein trustee Dawn Abernathy, who voted against the measure, criticized the decision for its misplaced priorities. Underscoring the village’s need to revitalize its lackluster downtown, the trustee decried the reverse logic of splurging instead on surface features.

“It is kind of like putting lipstick on a pig,” Abernathy said, according to the Review.

“We need to start being responsible with the tax dollars we are entrusted,” the trustee continued, “and this is not an example of being responsible.”

Other trustees dismissed Abernathy’s remarks, however, countering that by purchasing the signage all at once, rather than in annual installments as the trustees had first planned, the village would save taxpayers $15,000 in the long run by avoiding inflation and required staff time.

But Abernathy questioning the necessity of making such a purchase at all is understandable, especially considering the village’s severe pension funding issues.

The village’s fire pension fund is facing a long-term shortfall, as indicated by a 2017 Illinois Department of Insurance report. Despite a more than 40 percent increase in taxpayer contributions to the village’s fire pension fund between 2006-2016, its funding ratio declined to 74 percent in 2016 from 88 percent in 2006.

In an effort to the boost the funding levels of Mundelein’s police and fire pensions, the village board voted December 2017 to hike the village’s property tax levy by 5 percent. While this was the first levy increase in five years, Lake County residents already shoulder among the highest property taxes in Illinois.

But Mundelein is hardly a rarity in this regard. All across Illinois, municipal governments have continually hiked property taxes in attempt to chase the growing costs of pension obligations.

It isn’t just skyrocketing pension obligations that weigh on taxpayers, however, but generous public-worker paychecks as well. In April, the Mundelein Review reported that the Mundelein Fire Department paid department employees more than $800,000 in overtime in 2017 – more than double what the department paid in overtime in 2014.

While the price of new welcome signs is only a small cost in Mundelein’s overall landscape of public expenses, village leaders’ spending priorities might not inspire confidence for Mundelein taxpayers.

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