* The Tribune points out that a state law passed several years ago to prevent payroll “spiking” by school districts has meant that the districts are simply handing out the biggest end of career raises they can.
The law mandated that the pension impact of any school district pay raises above 6 percent a year for the last four years of service would have to be paid for by the local districts. So, many districts simply give out the maximum 6 percent raises, which, with compounding, equals 26 percent over four years…
Lake Forest High School District 115’s new contract with teachers, reached after a five-day walkout in September. The Tribune reported that “at least 20 teachers will receive 6 percent raises this year because they are scheduled to retire … Typically, teachers and administrators may announce their intention to retire up to four years in advance and receive an annual 6 percent salary bump, which is factored into their pension under state law …” Why four years? Because a teacher’s pension is calculated on the average of his or her four highest consecutive years of salary over the last decade of service.
That’s one of the strongest arguments in favor of shifting future pension obligations to local schools. They will be much more careful about personnel costs when they must pay those costs.
As we discuss in another editorial on this page, Illinois lawmakers have been in no rush to fix the state’s vastly underfunded pension system. One sticking point: Many Republicans oppose a Democratic proposal to shift pension costs to suburban and downstate public schools. (The Chicago public school system already has that obligation.)
Republicans say that would force schools to raise property taxes to pay for the new obligation. That assumes the only way to meet a government financial cost is to raises taxes. Come on.
This can be done by gradually phasing in the obligation, by reducing future pension obligations and by requiring employees to pay more into their own pensions. This does not require a tax increase.
Local school boards would be less likely to hand out big end-of-career pay raises if they had to pay for years and years of higher pension costs attached to those raises. The cost of government should fall on the government that incurs the cost. If Lake Forest or any other district wants to reward a teacher at the end of a career, fine. Just don’t stick somebody else with the bill.
It’s really difficult to argue with that logic.