Orland Park candidate says elect him and save $1.2 million
Orland Park businessman Keith Pekau says the main reason he wants to be mayor is to save village taxpayers more than $1.2 million the current mayor will receive in a pension over 20 years if he wins re-election on Tuesday.
"The impetus to run is that our mayor and the board decided to give him a pay raise of from $40,000 to $150,000 per year," Pekau said during a recent edition of the Chicago-based radio talk show Illinois Rising. "And the impact of that is to increase his pension from $25,000 to -- if he has one more term -- almost $100,000 per year. Over a 20-year-life span, after retirement after one more term, that's over $1.2 million. That's absolutely unacceptable."
Orland Park's longtime Mayor Dan McLaughlin received a 375 percent pay raise from village trustees in October, despite the standing-room-only crowd there to protest. The raise, which takes effect in May, would make him among the highest paid mayors in the world, ranking behind the pay of mayors of international capital cities such as Madrid, Moscow, Rome and Paris.
McLaughlin's pay raise has been widely criticized as pension spiking. Pekau said it must be stopped.
"First and foremost, I'm not going to take a pension," Pekau said. "The salary has been set in law for the next four years, so there's nothing I can do about it for four years. However, I'm going to push to bring it back to a part-time position like it should be, and bring the salary back commensurate to what it was before, which was $40,000."
Pension spiking and the village mayor's salary are not the only issues in the campaign, Pekau said.
"When looking deeper into the finances of the village, we've been hearing that there's a balanced budget for 24 years, which as you know from state law is required," he said. "However, our long-term debt has gone from $14 million in 1998 to $158 million today. So we've been balancing out of a credit card. On top of that, we've been getting a property tax rebate given back to us, about $158 per year to all the homeowners who've applied for it, and essentially we're borrowing for that. And it shows up early voting week. Essentially, we're buying votes with that. So those are the big issues facing the campaign."
Orland Park also needs economic development, Pekau said.
"Orland Park's development has been slack, our sales tax revenues have grown less than a half of a percent per year for the last eight years, and we really need to focus on bringing in new businesses, new industries into our region," he said. "Right now, we're totally focused on retail, restaurants and car dealerships because of the immediate gratification in sales tax revenue. Because of that, we totally ignore all the other industries that could come in."
Pekau also said he would advocate for the prioritization of funds to restore millions owed to Orland Park police and fire pensions ahead of those of local politicians.
"Obviously, myself not taking a pension, and the current mayor not getting one, is going to have a significant impact on pension benefits, so that our first-responders can receive their pensions," he said. "Also, I just really believe that all elected officials should be foregoing their pensions. So, hopefully, in the future, we can do that. But one of the things I'm going to push for is term limits. Because if we implement those term limits, none of the elected officials will be there long enough to get these gargantuan pensions."