EDITORIAL: Don't let windfall be downfall of prudence

2013-08-15T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL: Don't let windfall be downfall of prudence nwitimes.com
August 15, 2013 12:00 am  • 

The Lake County Solid Waste Management District needs to apply the "reduce, reuse, recycle" mantra to household waste, not bad ideas.

Yet a 2011 proposal to boost retirement benefits for the agency's staff has surfaced again, buoyed by the new county income tax revenue.

Board Chairman David Hamm said he has directed Executive Director Jeff Langbehn to put all new income tax revenue in a contingency fund for projects, recycling grants, education or other purposes to be determined by the board. That's as it should be.

But a committee of board members is proposing to apply the entire $249,000 to retirement funds for the professional staff.

Don't be fooled by this pension proposal. Already, employees have an IRA-style retirement plan available.

It is reminiscent of a 2011 plan to give district employees a percentage of their salaries for 10 years after retirement, based on their years of service. Employees with 30 or more years of service would have received 65 percent of their monthly salary for 10 years after retirement.

Would the new retirement plan be similar to the 2011 proposal that was tabled indefinitely after it was ridiculed as "greedy" and "excessive" by some board members? Would it replace the existing retirement plan?

Even if that's the case, the fact is that nearly a quarter of a million dollars in new money could go to the wrong use.

The new county income tax should be used for capital projects and other efforts to improve service to residents or to make government more efficient. It was not intended to fatten government employees' wallets, either now or upon retirement.

We're getting tired of pointing out that the Lake County Solid Waste Management District is supposed to manage household waste, not waste taxpayer dollars, but obviously it bears repeating.

The proposal to spend the $249,000 in new income tax revenues on pension benefits must be scrapped, not recycled.

Focus instead on finally figuring out an environmentally and fiscally responsible way of dealing with the county's household waste.

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