Given the precarious situation of unfunded liability in the police and fire pensions and limited avenues of finding revenue to cover it, the Pontiac City Council faced a tough choice Monday as to whether or not raising real estate taxes was the road the body wanted to go down.
    But after some urging from Mayor Bob Russell, the council opted not to increase the levy and vowed to find other ways to address the unfunded liability.
    City Administrator Bob Karls introduced the issue to the council, noting that while the fire pension fund remained stable, two new retirement annuities, a disability annuity and deferred retirement annuity in the police pension meant that unfunded accrued liability spiked from $4.4 million last year to nearly $6 million this year, and a drop from being 68 percent funded to being 61 percent funded. The state has mandated that by 2040, local police and fire pension boards should be 90 percent funded.
    The update on the pension situation led into the next item on the council’s agenda: passage of the city’s levy ordinance.
    Russell said that an article that reviewed the issue in-depth noted that an answer that many communities have found to the question was declaration of bankruptcy. Council member Brian Gabor noted that since nothing could be done about state government mandate, the city would have to cut services or raise revenue via raising taxes. He added that, as distastefully as it was to him, the later option would have to be seriously explored.
    “I’ve been on this board for almost 15 years, and most know that I try to be (frugal),” he said. “But I don’t know that we shouldn’t think about raising our levy this year. To go from almost balanced to $6 million in the hole in 20 years. I don’t say that happily … I don’t like doing it but I think we have to have that as an option.”
    But Russell was of a different opinion, saying that that was “a bad move.”
    “We need to find other ways,” he said. “There’s things that we can do that’ll cut into it. You have to cut services, and there’s some minimal services I think we can cut, but people are going to have you rather do that than raise their taxes.”
    After further debate, council member Bill Alvey proposed a motion that would leave the levy unchanged from last year’s rate. The council approved, with Gabor being the lone dissenter.
    At the end of the meeting, Karls addressed the brick, mortar and rebar elephant in the room — the Camp-Humiston Pool, which the city is currently seeking demolition bids on.
    He read through the results of the study done back in 2004 when the city was debating would to do with the pool. The investigative team noted that there were significant leaks in the jointing and piping and that the 1925 structure had lost its structural integrity.
    The study reported that the finish was “very poor” and that the concrete was under “very extreme duress.” Karls said that the cost to repair a structure that had already lived well past its lifespan was $3.2 million in 2004, and that the Humiston Trust had funded more minor tuneups over the years just to keep it running.
    The city administrator also noted that other options had been explored, but “in light of the conditions (of the facility), it’s not there.”
    “Back in 2004, this council wrestled with it, no one likes it,” he said. “It’s been a part of our fabric of our community.”
    Russell added that he had never seen concrete in such poor shape and that, as it stood now, it was a hazard to leave standing.