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A tough nut to crack

Monday, Apr 7, 2014

* From a press release by the Pension Fairness for Illinois Communities Coalition, which is a group of mayors demanding pension benefit reductions for police and firefighters…

According to a 2013 study by the bipartisan Commission of Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA), unfunded liabilities for police and fire pension funds statewide have “skyrocketed eight-fold” since 1991, growing from $953 million to $7.58 billion by 2010. This dramatic increase has occurred despite taxpayer contributions growing nearly four-fold since 2000 ($172.1 million to $629.2 million) according to Illinois Department of Insurance data. […]

It’s not hard to see how costs add up and strain municipal budgets as years of overly generous benefit increases have also led to the instability of public safety pension funds. Those added benefits received approval but municipalities were never provided additional funding to adequately cover the increased costs.

For instance, in Illinois, police officers and firefighters can retire at age 50, and collect up to 75 percent of their earnings with a 3 percent annual compounded cost-of-living increase, for the rest of his or her life. Furthermore, surviving spouses will continue to receive 100 percent of the pension benefit for the rest of their life beyond that.

In addition, the state has a remarkable 660 individual police and fire pension boards with a total of 3,300 trustees, the most of any state. These pension boards, comprised of a majority representing public safety employees with limited professional expertise to oversee investments, provide little – if any – accountability for taxpayers, which leads to inefficiencies when it comes to managing a combined $10.7 billion in assets.

* From the SJ-R

With a population of nearly 200,000 and a booming Hispanic population, Aurora is now the state’s second largest city. It faces a required increase of more than $1 million into the police and fire pension funds each year for the next 25 years.

The city has $220 million in unfunded debt between the two funds but also has one of the better funding levels at around 60 percent. Nonetheless, Weisner said it means they have not been able to hire new police and firefighters and have laid off some city workers.

“Without some reform there’s going to be cities that basically, I believe, will be going under,” he said.

* But this headline is right below that story in the SJ-R

Springfield firefighters scramble to battle 3 fires in hour’s time

If you thought passing pension reform over the objections of AFSCME and the teachers was tough, you ain’t seen nothing until you try to defeat the firefighters. They are well organized and hugely popular with the public.

- Posted by Rich Miller        


85 Comments
  1. - PublicServant - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 11:13 am:

    ===It’s not hard to see how costs add up and strain municipal budgets as years of overly generous benefit increases have also led to the instability of public safety pension funds.===

    There’s the key sentence that shouldn’t be in a column that purports to be news. It’s opinion, and unsubstantiated opinion at that. The culprit in pension underfunding is due to employer pension “holidays”. Who doesn’t like a holiday after all? This propaganda piece is meant to blame the victim…again. Not a mention of employer underfunding? Come on.


  2. - facts are stubborn things - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 11:14 am:

    =For instance, in Illinois, police officers and firefighters can retire at age 50, and collect up to 75 percent of their earnings with a 3 percent annual compounded cost-of-living increase, for the rest of his or her life.=

    I beleive the COLA is simple not compounded.


  3. - Demoralized - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 11:14 am:

    It continues to be open season on public employee pensions.


  4. - Steve - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 11:14 am:

    The Koch brothers must be blamed here or Climate Change.


  5. - Cassandra - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 11:18 am:

    They may be popular, but haven’t fire prevention strategies, including better code enforcement and improved fireproofing of building materials greatly reduced the number of fires in the US over past decades. Running a 24-hour emergency service is always expensive, but even with those constraints, do we have the right number of firefighters.

    Depending on the ISC, we may have to just pay up on existing pensions. But that shouldn’t preclude a careful analysis of how many firefighting personnel we need and how technology could be used to bolster firefighter safety, effectiveness and efficiency.


  6. - Demoralized - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 11:21 am:

    @Cassandra:

    Oh for pete’s sake. Technology to fight fires now? Less personnel? Give me a break. I understand your technology kick but this comment is just ridiculous.


  7. - Joe McCoy - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 11:21 am:

    The COLA is compounded for Tier 1 participants. The compounding was changed for Tier 2 participants and equals the lesser of 3% simple or 1/2 of CPI-U for each year after pension becomes payable.


  8. - Katiedid - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 11:22 am:

    Facts…: The COLAs for the downstate police & fire funds are compounded. Those for Chicago police & fire are not.


  9. - AnonymousOne - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 11:24 am:

    Gee, all these public employees are just too darn expensive to have. Lets’ just let people fight their own fires, educate their own kids and arm themselves to fight crime. Who needs these servants? Certainly snark.


  10. - Joe McCoy - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 11:25 am:

    The Tier 1 COLA 3% compounding applies to the downstate and suburban municipal police and firefighter pension funds.


  11. - Weltschmerz - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 11:26 am:

    Police and firefighters, of which I am neither, go into situations which have a likelihood of killing them, either quickly or slowly. Politicians deal in talk which is cheap. Next time you’re in trouble, call a pol and thank him for the skate park, bike path and other frippery they spent pension money on.


  12. - Cassandra - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 11:28 am:

    Demoralized,

    The technology would actually be to improve firefighter safety and effectiveness, not to mention fireproofing buildings. And in this 21st century technology age, you can bet somebody somewhere is working on this. I don’t know if this would reduce the need for firefighters, but
    employment is not the goal here.


  13. - Original Rambler - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 11:29 am:

    Can’t just analyze police and fire pensions without looking at the total compensation package. Chicago is swimming in $100k firefighters. Paid furlough days along with vacation and generous RDOs. Emmanuel will be judged how he handles these upcoming negotiations.


  14. - Downstater - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 11:31 am:

    Continue to see these stories about the police and firefighters, but rarely see stories about communities operating with volunteer fire departments. Also, these folks talking about the tough job police and firefighters endure seem to forget no one forced them to join the departments. There is only so much money to pay for public services and there has to be a different way of thinking how these services are delivered and what they will cost.


  15. - Demoralized - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 11:32 am:

    ==not to mention fireproofing buildings==

    Remember the uproar not too long ago about mandating sprinklers in Illinois? It doesn’t seem that people are too interested in “technology” to improve safety or to make building less susceptible to burning.

    The bottom line is that people are required in firefighting and police work. To suggest otherwise is laughable.


  16. - Demoralized - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 11:34 am:

    == There is only so much money to pay for public services and there has to be a different way of thinking how these services are delivered and what they will cost.==

    I see there is no shortage of people who think we don’t need people to do these public safety jobs.

    ==Also, these folks talking about the tough job police and firefighters endure seem to forget no one forced them to join the departments.==

    Don’t even know what to say to that nonsense. Really? Downplaying the job these people do? Pathetic.


  17. - Bunkus - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 11:45 am:

    =Continue to see these stories about the police and firefighters, but rarely see stories about communities operating with volunteer fire departments.=

    Jeez… where is this? Mayberry?

    Look, volunteer firwe departments may work in small hamlets downstate, yet in the bigger cities and Chicago this would not and could not work. Do you think cities could get enough volunteers? What about educating them in the latest fire-fighting techniques? How many of these volunteers actually work in the same city where they are a volunteer? And how many of their jobs would allow them time off for this today? We’re not in Kansas anymore…


  18. - Sue - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 11:45 am:

    Every community throughout Illinois faces the same problem -mounting pension costs are starving all other needs-laying off classroom teachers,crumbling infrastructure, health care, current payrolls- absent pension reform where benefits are reduced what is the alternative these communities are supposed to come up with?


  19. - Anyone Remember - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 11:45 am:

    Wasn’t a deal worked out under the leadership of then Springfield Mayor Tim Davlin, a deal that the municipalities agree to? What changed?


  20. - Aldyth - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 11:48 am:

    My local property taxes are going up 9% to cover municipal pensions. We’re going to remember that next time municipal elections come around and the old-timers on the board who approved such generous pensions are going to have problems, if they run for re-election. After the property tax increase, the local school district decided to get a property tax increase on the ballot to match what surrounding districts are getting. That went down in flames.

    The unintended consequences of generous pensions for people who live much longer than they used to have arrived. Backlash follows.


  21. - And I always thought Louisianna was bad... - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 11:49 am:

    1. We live longer so the ratio of years money is puit in to years maoney is pauid out has chamged immensely and just can;t work.
    2. I respect police and firefighters, but it;s just like air traffic contorllers; those who can deal with it are the ones doing it. Do you think they consider it a hardship to get out of the house for 24 hours? The percentages of times where a fire fighter or police officer, especially outside of Chicago has to actually worry about being hurt is miniscule. Ask any fire or police chief about the uptick in applicants motivated “because it’s a good gig.” And then of course the definition of disability has been so expanded so that it’s ludicrous. They could do paper work or inspections, but no, if they can’t fight fires or chase a bad guy, they’re out. Then, at that point, when they can’t be near danger ever again, they are paid forever, and nothing they do later can ever diminish that payment. Crazy!


  22. - Reader - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 11:51 am:

    @Demoralized

    Calm your outrage, please. Improved equipment and prevention can REDUCE the number of fire fighters needed. No one said they could be totally ELIMINATED. Your responses are hyperbolic nonsense.


  23. - And I always thought Louisianna was bad... - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 11:52 am:

    Pardon my typos. 1. We live longer so the ratio of years money is put in to years money is paid out has changed immensely and just can’t work.
    2. I respect police and firefighters, but it’s just like air traffic controllers; those who can deal with it are the ones doing it. Do you think they consider it a hardship to get out of the house for 24 hours? The percentages of times where a fire fighter or police officer, especially outside of Chicago has to actually worry about being hurt is miniscule. Ask any fire or police chief about the uptick in applicants motivated “because it’s a good gig.” And then of course the definition of disability has been so expanded so that it’s ludicrous. They could do paper work or inspections, but no, if they can’t fight fires or chase a bad guy, they’re out. Then, at that point, when they can’t be near danger ever again, they are paid forever, and nothing they do later can ever diminish that payment. Crazy!


  24. - Andrew Szakmary - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 11:53 am:

    The cherry-picking of base years in the press release is almost comical. For example, the fact that taxpayer contributions have increased four-fold since 2000 is hardly surprising, given that 2000 was the peak year of the stock market bubble and with the inflated asset values, pensions were close to fully fuunded - even in Illinois! So I would not be surprised if municipalities used this as an excuse to make unusually low contributions at that time.

    Long story short, the press release is propaganda, not news, and very primitive propaganda at that.


  25. - Reader - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 11:54 am:

    @PublicServant

    “There’s the key sentence that shouldn’t be in a column that purports to be news.”

    - As cited by Rich, that came from a press release, not a news source.


  26. - Hit or Miss - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 11:54 am:

    If the terms of the current pension plans so bad, why did the cities, and by implication the mayors of the cities, approve these pension plans? Was the future pension liability calculable when the pension plans approved?

    ===the state has a remarkable 660 individual police and fire pension boards with a total of 3,300 trustees, the most of any state.===

    I see little ‘remarkable’ with the number of police and fire pension boards when one remembers that Illinois has more units of government than any other state in the union.


  27. - mythoughtis - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 11:56 am:

    Actually, there are lots of situations outside of Chicago where a firefighter or police officer can get hurt. Who do you think goes in our burning buildings? Who rescues farmers from being suffocated in corn in grain bins? Who makes the traffic stops on I-55 and I-57 and catches all the drug runners from Mexico.

    I am more than happy to be a taxpayer contributing to the retirement pensions of firefighters and police officers. I hope they manage to have a long and happy retirement.. they’ve earned it. I just hope they can still breathe, run, think and move when they retire.


  28. - Hans Sanity - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 12:02 pm:

    Since learning about the this state’s pension “holidays” under Blago and the seemingly deliberate attempts to dismantle the US Postal Service by requiring it to pre-fund retiree health care benefits by 75 years, I am highly skeptical of any reports claiming a pension system is in disorder.

    One sure way to please campaign donating market managers is to transfer wealth from defined benefit systems into defined contribution systems.

    Corporations are only willing to carry DB plan liabilities for key personnel. Now muni-, state, and federal agencies are being pushed into the act.


  29. - Anonymous - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 12:02 pm:

    ==Also, these folks talking about the tough job police and firefighters endure seem to forget no one forced them to join the departments.==

    And no one forced you to join that private sector job with Social Security and a 401(k) instead of a pension. why don’t we just appropriate part of your bank account?


  30. - Municipal leader - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 12:08 pm:

    Readers need to understand that municipal leaders’ hands are tied when it comes to police and firefighter pensions. The state makes the laws and then gives the majority vote on the local pension funds to its members (3) rather than city/village appointments (2). However, it is the municipalities that must make up the shortfall with real estate taxes. The make up of the board should put the control in the hands of the municipality who has to pay the bills.


  31. - Enough is Enough - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 12:16 pm:

    Everyone agrees that police and firefighters deserve a pension. However, over the years many changes have been made to benefit the beneficiaries at the expense of the taxpayers. Such as a widow’s pension used to be 50% of the benefit with COLA. The state legislatures changed the law to provide the widow with a 100% of the benefit at the time of death just no COLA. This is significant. Also, police and firefighters are unique. Their pensions are calculated based upon their salary on the last day of service. Therefore, you can get promoted, work one day at that rank and receive a pension for the next 30 years based off that salary but you only paid into the pension for this increase amount 1 day. In contrast, other municipal employees belong to the IMRF pension fund. These employees pension beneift is based on the highest consecutive 48 months in the past 10 years. Also, if you retire before 60 you get a reduced pension. Police and Fire can retire at 50 years of age with 30 years of service and get 70% of their salary. Many do this and then take jobs with other municipalities. Enough is enough. Changes need to be made for future enrollees when it comes to benefit calculations.


  32. - downstate commissioner - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 12:17 pm:

    “=Continue to see these stories about the police and firefighters, but rarely see stories about communities operating with volunteer fire departments.=”
    Actually, volunteers are not a part of this discussion, since they do not receive pensions…

    “Jeez… where is this? Mayberry?

    Look, volunteer fire departments may work in small hamlets downstate, yet in the bigger cities and Chicago this would not and could not work. Do you think cities could get enough volunteers? What about educating them in the latest fire-fighting techniques? How many of these volunteers actually work in the same city where they are a volunteer? And how many of their jobs would allow them time off for this today? We’re not in Kansas anymore…”

    Central IL Counties: may have one or two full-time fire and EMS departments in entire county: Most local agencies are volunteers, many who work outside the community during the day; EMS is harder to staff than Firemen, due to training mandates. Volunteer departments exist ONLY because of the lack of funding.
    No, we’re not in Kansas, we’re in Downstate Illinois…


  33. - Past the Rule of 85 - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 12:24 pm:

    Some commenters have claimed we don’t need as many firefighters because the number of fires are decreasing. People need to keep in mind firefighters do a lot more than fight fires. Vehicle accidents are more dangerous due to electric and hybrid car systems, additional air bag placement and other distracted and impaired drivers adding to the mayhem. There are also more Hazmat incidents with stronger chemicals being released. Most firefighters also respond to EMS emergencies which are often “routine” but also could be the result of criminal activity. I saw one comment about how sweet it could be being away from home for a 24-hour shift. Over the course of a 24 year career that means 8 missed anniversaries, 8 missed Christmases, 8 missed children’s birthdays, etc. As usual the problem is largely due to our legislators passing benefit goodies over the years and letting someone else pick up the tab.


  34. - April Fool - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 12:33 pm:

    Pensions have been a hot button issue for a number of years here in Illinois. Private pensions have been disappearing for decades now, and the government has already began the process for reducing the benefits of public pensions.

    Unfortunately, the arguments have been defined in a way that pits the pension haves of the middle class vs the pension have nots of the middle class. At the end of the day, I predict that both sides of this battle will lose.

    As was shown in the article that Rich posted last week, the middle class in Chicago is ever shrinking. But that article only considered per capita income when considering the definition of the middle class. When retirement assets are considered, I imagine the picture is significantly more bleak.

    As the baby boomer generation moves closer and closer into retirement, it is apparent that we are destined for a retirement crisis in this country. The baby boomers will be the first generation where private sector pensions will not be the norm. 401(k)s will have proven an inadequate vehicle for obtaining retirement security. Our workforce will continue to age because people simply cannot afford to retire and even those working will struggle to get by.

    These are the problems we will face in the years to come. Maybe we should stop blaming each other and begin to work toward solutions - together - before its too late.


  35. - Mark - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 12:34 pm:

    - PublicServant
    === The culprit in pension underfunding is due to employer pension “holidays”.===

    This is a common misperception. The STATE pensions suffered from pension “holidays,” municipalities have never been given a holiday. Please don’t blame municipalities for the action or inaction of the state.

    - facts are stubborn things
    ===I beleive the COLA is simple not compounded.===

    That is incorrect. The pension benefit COLA for firefighters and police is compounded each year. Within 10 years after retirement, the retiree is making more in dollar amount than their final income. Add to this the add-ons to “final income” such as overtime in the final years, unused vacation time, etc., and these individuals can be earning more than their base salary even sooner. A fair pension is fine, it’s these windfalls that raise objections, which is understandable.

    - AnonymousOne -

    ===Gee, all these public employees are just too darn expensive to have. Lets’ just let people fight their own fires, educate their own kids and arm themselves to fight crime. Who needs these servants? ===

    Sadly, if we don’t do something soon to lessen the cost to taxpayers, those situations may be forced upon us. No snark at all. Municipalities are trying to reform this system before they collapse under their own costs. I continue to be surprised that some who promote no change to the current system fail to see this long range reality.

    - Hit or Miss -

    ===If the terms of the current pension plans so bad, why did the cities, and by implication the mayors of the cities, approve these pension plans? Was the future pension liability calculable when the pension plans approved? ====

    Please, please, please, let’s all remember that the state legislature sets the pensions, they are entirely out of the municipalities’ control. Municipalities, on behalf of their taxpayers, have consistently advocates against these pension sweeteners, but their voice has not won the issue in Springfield over the years. And salary levels are often the result of an arbitration system which heavily favors the unions, rather than the result of equal negotiations. Overall, municipal officials have very little control, or even influence, over the cost of public safety pensions. Again, the pensions should be fair, and should sustain the retirees who rely on them, but must be balanced against the burden of the cost that is placed on taxpayers. Commenters here have talked about the need for these public services. And yes, it would be great if we could have a fire station and patrol car on every street corner, but we can’t afford it. It would be insufficient to have one police officer and one firefighter for a city like Naperville, but would make things very affordable. So the key is to find the balance. Right now the pendulum is swung much to far to side of expensive, overly generous pension benefits and their undue costs placed on municipal taxpayers. We need to get back to the balance, where a 55 yr. old retiree, isn’t getting close to six figures in income, with no state income tax mind you, for the rest of his life. That is all.


  36. - Bunkus - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 12:39 pm:

    =Central IL Counties: may have one or two full-time fire and EMS departments in entire county: Most local agencies are volunteers, many who work outside the community during the day; EMS is harder to staff than Firemen, due to training mandates. Volunteer departments exist ONLY because of the lack of funding.
    No, we’re not in Kansas, we’re in Downstate Illinois…=

    Of course this is true. The point of the comment by Downstater seemed to imply that volunteer fire departments (without pensions) would work throughout Illinois. It may work in Tampico, Delavan, or DeSoto, but it certainly wouldn’t work in Joliet, Elgin, or Chicago…


  37. - Anonymous - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 12:50 pm:

    If the municipalities really couldn’t afford the pension, they shouldn’t have hired the employees. So, it’s ok for a city to dupe someone into risking their lives to benefit others by promising a benefit which it had no intention of paying?


  38. - Reality Check - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 12:50 pm:

    While I value public safety personnel, there has to be a limit as to the compensation taxpayers can afford. Suburban police and firefighters are paid handsomely, compared to the men and women in the military, who are in foreign lands and away from their families for years at a time. The public safety unions have control over the Illinois legislators–contributing generously to their campaign funds, doing full-time lobbying and providing volunteers to work for candidates who support what they want–and against candidates who don’t. My community will receive about $150,000 in new tax growth this year and the increased amount of money that has to go to pensions is $250,000. Where does that difference come from? It is the state that grants these pension benefits and the municipalities must pay for them. The majority of municipalities DID NOT take any pension holidays and yet we still can’t keep up with the increasing costs. How do you justify making more money eight years after you retire, than on the day you retired, without having paid any more into the system? The math doesn’t work. If police and fire were given the same benefits that other municipal workers receive, who are in IMRF, I believe the funding issue would be resolved. In the IMRF model, there would not be separate funds administered by the recipients–instead one fund, administered and invested by professionals.


  39. - Big Muddy - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 12:51 pm:

    Sorta off-topic here but why do firefighters have to work in 24 hr blocks? Municipalities could save some bucks if they got rid of firehouses. Towns literally pay people to sleep. Police don’t work 24 on, why do firefighters? Tradition? Seems to be a practice who’s time has come. I’m sure the unions would go bizerk over the idea.


  40. - Mark - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 12:56 pm:

    - Anonymous -

    ===If the municipalities really couldn’t afford the pension, they shouldn’t have hired the employees.===

    When those who currently nearing retirement were hired, the pension benefits were much lower. The legislature has increased those benefits over time, and provided no means to pay for them!

    And keep in mind that reform proposals are for future benefits only. Any benefit already accrued stays with the employee. So those who have based their employment decisions on years of promised benefits will get all they have already earned, and only their remaining years of employment will be impacted. Someone with just a few years before retirement would see very little change. Those earlier in their career would have greater impact, but have the years to decide what is right for their career choices. There is no “duping” going on here.


  41. - A guy... - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 12:59 pm:

    In the suburbs, manpower and equipment could easily be spread over more population. Every department is purchasing equipment that neighboring departments have and don’t use to the potential it was purchased for. The extra manpower in many departments is truly eye opening. The PSEBA claims at the end of careers show alarming increases. There are definitely fixes to be made here. The Firefighters had their way in Springfield for 3 decades. Their pensions are utterly unsustainable. Not to mention they’ve prevented private paramedic services from being used to handle some very routine calls. This one will come down to Labor vs. the People eventually. It’s a sticky wicket, but the can being kicked down the road is about to hit a wall. If physical exertion is part of the reason that the retirement age is set at 50 with 30 years experience, then every firefighter should be required to complete a physical every year. There are among them folks who wouldn’t pass them pretty early in their careers.


  42. - Demoralized - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 1:00 pm:

    == Your responses are hyperbolic nonsense.==

    Not in the context of the dopey comments being made on here about the need to reduce personnel. I’ll continue to point out the ridiculousness of such comments.


  43. - Demoralized - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 1:09 pm:

    ==Municipalities could save some bucks if they got rid of firehouses.=

    And those firehouses would be replaced by what exactly???


  44. - fed up - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 1:10 pm:

    Hmm lots of misinformation or ignorance out there. Chicago Police & Fire are seperate from the rest of the state’s police & fire. Chicago does not recieve a 3% Cola, they only get 1.5% simple interest, Chicago does not get a percentage of their last day salary, they get the Avg of the last 3 years, even with those lesser beniefts the Chicago pension funds are severly underfunded,Police and Fireman pay 9.25% of salary into their funds the City of Chicag has vastly underfunded the pension funds. Doing so has allowed the city (Daley) to keep property taxes artifically low now the bill is due and Rahm really doesnt want to pay it.


  45. - Mark - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 1:11 pm:

    - Demoralized -

    ===The bottom line is that people are required in firefighting and police work. To suggest otherwise is laughable. ===

    No one has suggested otherwise. The suggestions are for better use of available tools to make the work of these people less labor intensive where possible. Your comments might have more credibility if you didn’t overtly misinterpret the comments of others. Otherwise you’re just bickering.


  46. - A guy... - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 1:12 pm:

    Demoralized, there are plenty of situations with bloated rosters of firefighters and manning tables that are only in place to provide extra jobs. The best example I can provide you would be in Barrington, where the city and township consolidated. The numbers there are telling. Please google it yourself.


  47. - Demoralized - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 1:16 pm:

    ==No one has suggested otherwise==

    Could have fooled me. This type of work is always going to be labor intensive. It’s the nature of the beast.

    ==There are plenty of situations with bloated rosters of firefighters and manning tables that are only in place to provide extra jobs. ==

    Possibly. But it still doesn’t change my attitude on the subject. I don’t take anecdotes and try to apply it everywhere. Deal with that in that community. It shouldn’t be used to suggest anything overall about the needs for personnel.


  48. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 1:21 pm:

    Expanding the sales tax to include services would presumably provide some relief to the local pension funding crisis.

    I believe the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability crunched those numbers once upon a time.

    Martire? You out there?


  49. - Mark - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 1:22 pm:

    - Demoralized -

    === =Municipalities could save some bucks if they got rid of firehouses.=

    And those firehouses would be replaced by what exactly???===

    Oh, a park for residents to enjoy, maybe? Or a retail business that would contribute financially to the community? Yes, we need sufficient fire stations. But there are, at least in suburban Cook and the collar counties, far more than necessary stations, truck, and personnel. If it were done thoughtfully, there could be significant reductions with no loss whatsoever to response time or quality of service. In fact, there could be significant reductions while still leaving more stations, equipment, and personnel per capita and per square mile than is currently utilized in the City of Chicago. We just need open minds, a willingness to implement change for the better, and less self-protection and defensiveness.


  50. - Harley - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 1:22 pm:

    There is no question that police and fire fighters provide very necessary and needed services. In part due to 9/11 etc. they are very popular as well. It is easy to understand how they do so well with the General Assembly. They work 24 and generally have 48 hours off which allows time for their second jobs and time to lobby legislators for their increased benefits. Although there aren’t as many fire fighters in the state as you think, it appears they are everywhere because they have time off to attend lobby Days, etc.


  51. - RNUG - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 1:22 pm:

    The best lines in the SJ-R story were from current Joliet Mayor and former firefighter Tom Giarrante. The SJ-R summarized his comments this way:

    “Giarrante argues that Joliet must rely on natural growth in sales tax and property tax revenues to cover the increasing costs. He believes that reducing worker benefits is wrong and won’t hold up in court.”

    To put this in context, Joliet has been on the losing end of more work rule / pension clause lawsuits than any other city … so their mayor(s) should know a thing or two about constitutionality of trying to change things. Not only has Joliet previously lost on various pension issues, the remanded and apparently on hold (until Kenerva / Maag is issued) Marconi v Joliet case currently has a appellate directive that the premium-free health insurance is a contract unless there is clear evidence to the contrary.


  52. - Big Muddy - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 1:24 pm:

    Demoralized,
    Replace them with nothing. Keep the buildings and repurpose the bunkhouses into community outreach offices? Bigger point here was to get rid of the 24 hour shift. No need to feed and house firefighters. What’s wrong with a 8 or 12 hour shift? Cops do it. You about to tell me firefighters can’t be like cops? Please.


  53. - AnonymousOne - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 1:24 pm:

    fed up—thanks for clarification and facts. Sounds like the same old story over and over again. Legislators have avoided asking for taxation to keep up with costs and have allowed public servants to become the whipping boy at which all outrage is directed. Keep the heat off of them (legislators) Meanwhile, look at other states–even surrounding states that have robust economies. What are their citizens paying for those things? Few states of our stature have tax rates as low as we do.


  54. - Norseman - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 1:28 pm:

    === This is a common misperception. The STATE pensions suffered from pension “holidays,” municipalities have never been given a holiday. Please don’t blame municipalities for the action or inaction of the state. ===

    Ok Mark, educate me as to why there is an unfunded liability if the municipalities are paying what they are supposed to be paying?

    I see the argument that the increasing costs due to benefit changes are on the state, but I believe the locals are also part of the problem for not paying what they are supposed to.


  55. - wordslinger - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 1:29 pm:

    –The best example I can provide you would be in Barrington,–

    Yeah, Barrington’s representative.

    What are we supposed to google to find your best example of something?


  56. - Demoralized - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 1:29 pm:

    @Mark:

    We’ll have to agree to disagree. If the volume of stations and personnel reduce response times then that should be the priority. If they aren’t then obviously there has to be an examination of what is going on. And while it may not appear so, I do respect your opinion. This subject gets my dander up.


  57. - wordslinger - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 1:30 pm:

    As far as “volunteer fire department,” go, the old saying is that they’ve never lost a foundation yet.


  58. - Demoralized - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 1:32 pm:

    @Big Muddy:

    Fine. Reduce the shifts. But you aren’t going to have any less firefighters doing so. You are just changing their work schedules.


  59. - Reality Check - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 1:33 pm:

    Municipalities have been looking at how to consolidate services–including combining two or more small fire departments, to eliminate some administration, personnel and duplication of equipment. Unions are against this–less personnel mean less union members. Currently there is a bill in Springfield requiring mandatory staffing for fire departments–job protection at its best. Local municipalities are the ones equipped to decide how many employees they can afford to hire, especially those under tax caps.


  60. - fed up - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 1:34 pm:

    the future of Police and fire is going to be consolidation. It is going to take some politicans that put the community first and not fixate on their own power. Many suburbs or towns can consolidate multiple police Dept, into one and elimanate layers of management and overlapping specialty services. In the past each town or suburb wanted their own police dept, now its time to face a muli jurisdication approach would be much more efficant.


  61. - Mark - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 1:34 pm:

    - Norseman -

    ===Ok Mark, educate me as to why there is an unfunded liability if the municipalities are paying what they are supposed to be paying?===

    3 Factors: Pension sweeteners granted by the Legislature, Lower than estimated returns on invested funds, and Increased life expectancies. The second two are no one’s fault, but the entire cost of them falls on taxpayers, and leads to the levels of unfunded pension liability we see today. Municipalities are putting more money into their pension funds than ever before, but they are losing the funding battle as unfunded liabilities increase.


  62. - OneMan - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 1:59 pm:

    Two thoughts being an Aurora resident…

    1) If we are that broke, we should stop giving out TIFF funds and tax breaks to grocers and restaurants left and right.

    2) I would like to say I am surprised I haven’t read more about this in the Beacon News (the local Aurora paper) but most of what they do now is happy news and never seem to question authority anymore.


  63. - Anon. - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 2:04 pm:

    ==Also, these folks talking about the tough job police and firefighters endure seem to forget no one forced them to join the departments.==

    Absolutely true. What “they” did was promise certain pay and benefits. No one made “them” offer those salaires and benefits, but now “they” want to renege on their promises after the firefighters and police (and other public employees) performed their side of the bargain. Theft is too nice a word for it.


  64. - OVERSIGHT - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 2:41 pm:

    Most people rarely have contact with police or firefighters and that’s a good thing. Funding is adequate to cover all of those good people and their infrequent needs.

    However, for that ever increasing number of people that seem to have numerous run ins with the law or who call the fire department for free treatment or a meal, start charging them per call.

    Soon everything will come back to normal.


  65. - A guy... - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 2:55 pm:

    ==== wordslinger - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 1:29 pm:

    –The best example I can provide you would be in Barrington,–

    Yeah, Barrington’s representative.

    What are we supposed to google to find your best example of something?====

    Just when I was beginning to tolerate your odd sense of self righteousness. It took all of 10 seconds to find this. There are related stories up and down the left side of the page. Next time; show your work. lol
    www.dailyherald.com/article/20130815/news/708159851/


  66. - A guy... - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 2:59 pm:

    This issue is among the very few that unites most towns in the IML. Pensions are negotiated in Springfield and municipalities are required to fund them (no pension holidays when the state issues unfunded mandates, no sir!) You’ll begin to see a number of communities (especially tax capped ones) screaming for relief or changing how they deal with fire service in their communities. The money ain’t there. Layoffs will occur no matter who screams. It won’t be the young and fit guys who are laid off either. Look for most of them to resemble Mouch. It’s serious folks.


  67. - Buzzie - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 3:00 pm:

    Look, we now have concealed carry so we no longer need police; we can provide each homeowner with a hose so we will no longer firefighters; and we can give the whole Illinois public school system to the Catholic Church so that all those schools can be converted to Catholic Schools (the nuns were great teachers, they worked for less than minimum wage and they had no pension).


  68. - Norseman - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 3:03 pm:

    === I would like to say I am surprised I haven’t read more about this in the Beacon News (the local Aurora paper) but most of what they do now is happy news and never seem to question authority anymore. ===

    Back in my Aurora days, we called the paper the “Be Confused.” That was the during the Copley days. I’m not sure its changed that much since it was taken over by the Sun-Times. Although, I don’t read the paper anymore, family tells me that it’s not that great of a paper.


  69. - Demoralized - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 3:04 pm:

    @A guy:

    You have an anecdotal representation to support your view. So, no, it’s not representative.


  70. - Norseman - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 3:10 pm:

    === Pensions are negotiated in Springfield and municipalities are required to fund them (no pension holidays when the state issues unfunded mandates, no sir!) ===

    I’m still waiting for an answer as to why there is an unfunded balance if the locals are paying what they are supposed to.

    There are a lot of things we didn’t have control over that we have to pay for, but we still have to pay them.


  71. - cover - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 3:19 pm:

    = No, we’re not in Kansas, we’re in Downstate Illinois… =

    Kansas is in Downstate Illinois, about halfway between Charleston and Paris. With a population of 787, it’s likely served by volunteer firefighters. On the Google map, both in Earth view and Street view, there is a fire truck sitting in front of the Kansas FPD building.


  72. - Reality Check - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 3:21 pm:

    Norseman: Because returns on investments took a huge hit from roughly 2007-2012, yet the amount of benefits that had to be paid out did not change. Local taxpayers in my community pay 24% of the amount needed, while the employee only pays 9%. When 1/4 of the total property taxes collected are used to pay for a pension obligation, municipalities have to think very hard about their ability to hire any more police or fire personnel.


  73. - Chris - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 3:22 pm:

    “It took all of 10 seconds to find this. There are related stories up and down the left side of the page. Next time; show your work. lol”

    How is that the *best* example?


  74. - Rusty618 - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 3:25 pm:

    ==Bigger point here was to get rid of the 24 hour shift. No need to feed and house firefighters. What’s wrong with a 8 or 12 hour shift?==

    What happens when they are at at a fire scene and their 8 hour shift is up? Do they just wind up their hoses on go home? The shifts are that length to get more for the dollar. There are not just sitting around when there are no calls. They are doing maintenance on the trucks and equipment, all that need to be ready (and certified!) to go when the call comes in!

    ==Municipalities could save some bucks if they got rid of firehouses.=

    And just exactly where do you propose that the fire trucks are kept? And who will be there to drive and man (or woman) them? Time for a reality check!


  75. - A guy... - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 3:26 pm:

    Norseman, Try this one on: The pension liabilities are growing much faster than the agreed to contributions. People live longer. Towns got bigger and the unions fought to hire substantially more members. The equation was flawed from the beginning and the State Legislature made it worse every time the Fire fighters showed up in uniform to testify in Springfield in full uniform during those 48 hours off. There is no local control on this. The locals aren’t just paying what they’re supposed to, they’re paying more. For many communities the entire local levy goes to pensions. Soon, they’ll have to start using fee and sales tax revenue to support pension payments. First, other services are cut– then finally layoffs in police and fire. It’s already happened in places. I think that’s what the Mayor of Aurora is trying to tell you.


  76. - wordslinger - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 3:45 pm:

    –You have an anecdotal representation to support your view–

    That’s the whole game with that dude, man.

    But he speaks for the people. All of them.


  77. - Mark - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 3:51 pm:

    Norseman,

    There are a number of municipalities whose ENTIRE property tax levy goes toward police and fire pension payments. All other operations and services have to be paid from other sources, like sales tax. And when these are non-home rule municipalities, with no authority to raise taxes without voter approval, they are in quite a bind.


  78. - A guy... - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 4:30 pm:

    - ===wordslinger - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 3:45 pm:

    –You have an anecdotal representation to support your view–

    That’s the whole game with that dude, man.

    But he speaks for the people. All of them. ====

    Thanks Word Slingshot. Limit it to the number of people I do talk to; which is a lot. You’re the only dudes I know who ask for sources and then issue a list of sources you won’t accept. Don’t change the subject on this one, make the argument. There’s a guy a few stories up who thinks 8 hours shifts mean that “during a fire” guys would just leave. Must be because that’s how hospitals with 8-12 hour shifts deal with it. Jeesh. Firefighters have an antiquated great thing going and they know it. UAW had it for a while too. LA County is one of the best examples of consolidating manpower and equipment that is out there. They also have more fires to deal with than any county in Illinois. They handle it. (Before you ask me, look it up yourself)


  79. - Anyone Remember - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 4:42 pm:

    Big Muddy -

    Generally … generally … if you want a person at a certain spot 24 hours a day / seven days a week using 8 hour shifts, it takes a headcount of 5. 3 to work each day, 2 for sick / work injury / training / time off - remember, there has to be someone there no matter what. If you do 24 on / 48 off, you can get away with a headcount of 4. That is why firemen in this country work that shift.


  80. - Anonymous - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 5:21 pm:

    @A guy:

    I had no idea you were an expert on so many subjects.

    If it’s such a great thing maybe you can go be a firefighter. You seem to think you know everything anyway. They’d probably be glad to have your expertise.

    Again, your arrogance makes you difficult to listen to.


  81. - Demoralized - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 5:22 pm:

    That was me above


  82. - PublicServant - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 7:43 pm:

    Sorry. Meant retch. Should have gone to journalism school like Rich.


  83. - A guy... - Tuesday, Apr 8, 14 @ 8:26 am:

    Demoralized, Rest assured, I knew it was you. I can’t be a firefighter. Age would now prohibit it. I’ve never had a public salary, but I’ve examined and worked on public budgets for years. I don’t know everything by a long shot. But I do know a lot more than you do. This is a blog. Feel free to ignore me. OW makes you think a little bit, especially if he’s not commenting on his obsession of Bruce Rauner. WS makes you think a little more. He’s even got a sense of humor. You, not so much. No thinking. No humor. Glad to hear you’re a fan.


  84. - Demoralized - Tuesday, Apr 8, 14 @ 10:02 am:

    @ A guy:

    Bite me.


  85. - A guy... - Tuesday, Apr 8, 14 @ 10:23 am:

    @Demoralized, No, thank you.


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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