State withholds $1.4 million for pensions, Harvey mayor threatens layoffs
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Half of Harvey’s police and fire department personnel will be laid off later this week after a court ruling blocked the long-struggling south suburb from receiving $1.4 million in tax revenue, attorney Bob Fioretti said Tuesday.
City officials will officially make a decision this week on how to make up the shortfall, after a chancery court judge on Monday denied a request to release the money while the city fights its police pension board over millions in back payments, said Fioretti, who is representing Harvey.
“They’ve got enough for payroll this week,” said Fioretti, a former Chicago alderman.
Fioretti later on Tuesday said that on Friday, 18 firefighters and half of the city’s 63 police officers would be laid off.
“Public safety is the top priority of the mayor, and he’s going to work to make sure that the city is safe,” Fioretti said.
Harvey Mayor Eric Kellogg on Monday called a special meeting and discussed “massive” layoffs required if Harvey doesn’t receive the money from the state, which was withheld by Comptroller Susana Mendoza after the city’s police pension board filed a complaint under a recently passed state law.
Addressing reporters Monday night, Kellogg – who was reelected in 2016 to a fourth term as mayor – blasted Mendoza.
“You want to make Harvey the test baby,” Kellogg said. “All I’m saying is, I own it, with respect to some of the issues with respect to the city of Harvey. But I can’t own the fact that she made an unprecedented, illegal move to freeze our dollars.”
Fioretti said the town will appeal the ruling, which would redirect tax revenue until the city pays down between $5 million to $7 million in pension debt. Harvey is the first municipality to see its state revenues withheld under the law, Fioretti said.
Mendoza spokesman Abdon Pallasch said Tuesday that Mendoza was required to follow the law, and it was a judge’s ruling in favor of the union that ultimately blocked Harvey from receiving the money from the state.
The funds, Pallasch said, were revenues collected by the state on behalf of Harvey, with the bulk of the $1.4 million coming from sales taxes.
According to public records, Harvey’s pension troubles are likely to get worse. The Harvey firefighters pension fund has made a separate claim with Mendoza’s office, seeking up to $8 million in back pension payments.