* Keep in mind that the Art Institute, Field Museum, CSO and Adler Planetarium [fixed link] boards are all comprised of Chicago’s elite, many of whom are now deriding public employees and demanding that the state cut pensions. From the Tribune…
Borrowing and spending on the assumption that more money and visitors would follow was not the only financial risk many cultural institutions took. They also put off pension payments and borrowed at unpredictable interest rates.
Those choices allowed museums and arts organizations to pay less up front but ended up costing them more in the long run. It also made it harder to restructure their debts when times got tough. […]
In the robust early-2000s market, pension plans were flush and some institutions refrained from contributing to avoid over-funding, which is allowed under federal law. When the market weakened and interest rates fell, funding levels dropped. Yet the boards of many major cultural institutions continued to approve the skipping of annual pension payments.
The Art Institute, Field Museum, CSO and Adler Planetarium all elected not to make pension payments for several years at a time in the early 2000s, even as funding levels slipped. Now all of them have either frozen plans, closed them to new employees or increased retirement ages. [Emphasis added.]