* From the Decatur Herald & Review…
Calling the city’s pensions “dangerously underfunded,” the Illinois Policy Institute released a report intended to highlight a statewide problem stemming from the rising costs of pensions for police, firefighters and local government workers. […]
“Despite more money being thrown into pension systems, the relative health of those pensions systems aren’t that much better, or they’re worse. They’re worse in most cities,” [Ted Dabrowski, vice president of policy for the Illinois Policy Institute] said. “You’ve got a lose-lose situation where taxpayers are throwing in more money and yet they’re not getting any benefit from that.”
In a news release issued Thursday, the institute said “every penny” of property tax revenue in Decatur goes to pay for local government pensions.
In fact, about $7.6 million of the city’s $11.7 million property tax levy is designated for pensions. The remaining money is pledged to the Decatur Public Library, municipal band and general obligation bond debt. […]
The fire and police pension funds have a cash balance of about $130 million. They are now 62 percent and 69 percent funded, respectively, [Decatur City Manager Ryan McCrady] said.
“If we stop putting a penny into those pension funds today, employees that would not get a pension are probably in high school,” he said.
* SJ-R editorial…
The Illinois Policy Institute, a Chicago-based think tank and lobbying organization that makes no secret of its advocacy for 401(k)-style public pension plans, injected itself into the local pension conversation this week by offering Springfield aldermen an embarrassingly flawed assessment of the city’s pension picture.
Aldermen politely sent packing the institute’s representative, Ted Dabrowski, who appeared at Tuesday night’s council meeting to present its study of Springfield’s pension system.
For the study, the Illinois Policy Institute used publicly available data from Springfield and 113 other Illinois cities to score and rank how much of an effect pensions are having on taxpayers, property taxes and municipal budgets. Springfield, the study declares, has the worst-funded municipal pension system of the state’s 20 largest cities and spends 100 percent of its general fund property taxes to pay for police, fire and city pensions.
Not so fast.
Among other flaws, the study accounted for all city pension payments, including those for enterprise funds, such as City Water, Light and Power. It did not, however, account for revenue from those enterprise funds, which skewed the institute’s conclusions. […]
The report also asserts Springfield’s property taxes have “skyrocketed” because of unwieldy pension payments. In fact, property tax rates in Springfield haven’t increased since 1984, but revenue meanwhile has increased because of property appreciation and development.
* Good journalism from the two Downstate papers. Not so much from WGN TV…
It’s not just the state of Illinois as a whole that’s dealing with a huge, pension problem.
Municipal pension systems are also in rough shape. A new audit by a conservative think-tank says pensions are wreaking havoc with municipal budgets. […]
If you wonder why you’re having more potholes than ever, it’s not just the weather,” says John Tillman of the Illinois Policy Institute. “It’s the pension crisis in your own community.”
Tillman says a new audit of 114 Illinois cities and towns reveals an alarming problem. ”It doesn’t matter if you’re a low income community or a high end community,” he says. “All these towns are having trouble keeping up with their pension obligations because the amount of the obligation is growing way too fast.”