Springfield City Pensions

Springfield residents on hook for $500 million in local retirement debt – November 28, 2017

Wirepoints
Ted Dabrowski

In 2014, I presented to Springfield’s City Council the ominous findings of a pension report I had recently authored. The report warned of increasing stress on Springfield taxpayers due to rising local pension costs. It also warned of worsening work and retirement security for government workers as the local crisis deepened. Springfield ranked 112 out of 114 cities from across Illinois in terms of fiscal health due to pensions.

Springfield residents were already paying a price to make way for rising government worker pension costs. Three library branches had been shuttered and 20 employees cut. At least 24 sworn police officers had been laid off. And residents in neighborhoods with crumbling sidewalks and growing potholes had to wait longer for repairs – the city had 60 fewer public works positions then than it did in 2008.

Unfortunately, the response from local officials to the report wasn’t one of urgency. Instead, Read the rest of this entry »

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George Will: America’s predictable pension crisis – Feb 23, 2017

Some American disasters come as bolts from the blue — the stock market crash of October 1929, Pearl Harbor, the designated hitter, 9/11. Others are predictable because they arise from arithmetic that is neither hidden nor arcane. Now comes the tsunami of pension problems that will wash over many cities and states.

Dallas has the fastest-growing economy of America’s 13 largest cities but in spite of its glistening commercial towers it represents the skull beneath the skin of American prosperity. According to its mayor, the city is “walking into the fan blades” of pension promises: The fund for retired police and firefighters is $5 billion underfunded Read the rest of this entry »

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Alderman Joe McMenamin gives a presentation on Pension Liabilities – Dec. 4, 2012.

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Alderman McMenamin discusses City budgets and pensions

2/23/2016 – Joey McLaughlin and Ward 7 Ald. Joe McMenamin talk city budget and pensions on WTAX’s podcast Morning Newswatch – Length: 5:37

http://wtax.com/podcasts/ward-7-alderman-joe-mcmenamin-on-city-pensions/

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Ald McMenamin Speaks on the City Pension Problem – Feb. 2014

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TqlWxz-0_KY

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Springfield aldermen looking into wage, hiring freezes – Mar 12, 2017

Mary Hansen
The State Journal-Register

The city of Springfield is taking applications for an accountant, records managers and engineers, according to the human resources’ website. But which additional positions the city fills in the coming months is uncertain as aldermen float ideas about wage and hiring freezes in light of a continuing bleak fiscal outlook.

Mayor Jim Langfelder said last week that he is not in favor of a halt in hiring and that the timing of a freeze is troublesome given the expected number Read the rest of this entry »

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Springfield aldermen still making up minds on tax increases – Jan 27, 2017

Mary Hansen
The State Journal-Register

Unlike their counterparts at the Statehouse, Mayor Jim Langfelder promised that he and the Springfield City Council would pass a spending plan before the next budget year begins on March 1. But there are still plenty of tough discussions to come, including addressing a multimillion-dollar gap in revenue and spending that the mayor has proposed closing with four tax increases.

Aldermen could vote on the tax hikes at their next meeting Feb. 7. Many say Read the rest of this entry »

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Bob Gray: Police, fire costs reach ‘tipping point’ – Jan. 17, 2017

The State Journal-Register
Bob Gray

The city of Springfield’s corporate budget of $118.5 million for fiscal year 2016 included $82.9 million for police and fire services. The current budget year, which ends Feb. 28, is projected to end with $116 million in revenue collected; of that, about $85.9 million was budgeted to be spent on police and fire.

The next budget, for the fiscal year that starts March 1 and runs through Feb. 28, 2018, has a proposed $87.7 million total budgeted for police and fire, but unfortunately the Corporate Fund is expected to generate about $119 million in revenue (if tax increases proposed by the mayor are not approved). These are unheard of numbers anywhere in the country. If you add Read the rest of this entry »

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Spike in city retirements tied to loss of vacation ‘spike’ – Dec. 24, 2016

Mary Hansen
The State Journal-Register

City employees retired in greater numbers that year than any other in a five-year period. According to the city’s human resources office, 84 workers retired in 2015, compared to 60 so far this year.

City officials and others have different perspectives on why the bump in retirements happened. Some point to the Springfield City Council’s decision to get rid of a perk that allowed employees nearing retirement to cash in unused vacation days, “spiking” their future pension payments.

“The discussion at the time was should we cut it off now, or Read the rest of this entry »

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City of Springfield’s revenue short of expectations – Nov 20, 2016

Mary Hansen
The State Journal-Register

Springfield’s financial worries are piling up as budget discussions approach for the fiscal year that begins March 1. Revenue from sales tax this year is about 2 percent less than anticipated, according to city budget director Bill McCarty. This is on top of a smaller-than-expected share of state income tax that was reported in August.

As a result, the city expects $3.6 million less than the $120 million budgeted to be flowing into its largest fund, which pays for police, fire and public works, among other services. The city’s utility fund is separate. Further, Springfield’s credit rating was downgraded in October, due in large part to its growing pension debt Read the rest of this entry »

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Property tax rate steady while pension debt increases – Nov 16, 2016

Mary Hansen
The State Journal-Register

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Property tax rate

By a vote of 9-1, aldermen approved the city’s property tax rate for the coming year as the same as it’s been for the past several years — 0.9385 per $100 of assessed valuation. The money goes to pay the city’s state-mandated police and fire pension payments, which next year will be roughly $21.3 million.

City budget director Bill McCarty said that while property tax revenue would cover the mandatory payment this year, it likely won’t next year. Read the rest of this entry »

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City’s growing pension debt to be focus of budget negotiations – Oct 29, 2016

Mary Hansen
The State Journal-Register

A credit agency downgraded Springfield’s rating last week because of what it called “considerable growth” in the city’s pension liability. Mayor Jim Langfelder said the downgrade was unavoidable because of changes in accounting practices. But he added the city’s growing pension debt needs to be addressed in upcoming discussions about the budget for the fiscal year that starts March 1.

Ward 7 Ald. Joe McMenamin said the growing liability shows the city has not done enough, and it should be a wakeup call. Read the rest of this entry »

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No exclusion of holiday pay after Fire Pension Board vote Oct 13, 2016

Mary Hansen
The State Journal-Register

The five-member Springfield Fire Pension Board failed to approve a motion Thursday to exclude holiday pay from pension calculations for current firefighters, with the three active and former firefighter members abstaining.

But whether the vote means anything is debatable. City officials on the board say it moves the dispute toward resolution, while the board’s lawyer contends it has little impact. Both sides agree a judge might eventually have to decide.

At issue is whether the double-time pay Read the rest of this entry »

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Pension perks – Alderman, board members sign on for pensions May 2, 2016

Bruce Rushton
The Illinois Times

Local elected officials due for pensions would have to keep logs showing that they have worked enough hours to qualify for pension benefits under a bill now pending in the state legislature.

That could mean a lot of paperwork for local pols. Elected officials aren’t required to take pensions, but all but one member of the Springfield City Council has signed up for pension benefits and more than half the members of the Sangamon County board are on board. Read the rest of this entry »

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Ald. Joe McMenamin: City’s escalating pension debt leads to unbalanced budgets Feb. 21, 2016

Joe McMenamin
The State Journal-Register

I voted no to the Springfield city budget appropriation again last week — the fifth time in five years on the Council. I voted no because the proposed budget, like previous ones, is unbalanced. It continues 20 years of escalating pension debt.

In effect, each year’s budget finances a portion of current operations by “borrowing” from pensions — by not paying into the pension funds as much as is being obligated to future retirees. We finance annual pay raises and continue benefits for our employees by deferring pension obligations to the future. This is exactly what the State of Illinois did for so long. It is wrong and Read the rest of this entry »

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Aldermen slash $7M from CWLP budget, approve $600M city spending plan Feb. 16, 2016

Jamie Munks
The State Journal-Register

The Springfield City Council on Tuesday carved away almost $7 million in proposed spending from City Water, Light and Power, then passed a nearly $600 million city budget that funds inspector general services. The city-owned utility’s budget proposal from Mayor Jim Langfelder’s administration saw the most drastic changes in the finalized spending plan aldermen passed at Tuesday’s city council meeting. Read the rest of this entry »

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City’s first pension summit focuses on debt ‘conundrum’ Dec. 14, 2015

Jamie Munks
The State Journal-Register

Stakeholders gathered Monday for Springfield’s first pension summit, to start discussing how to chip away at the city’s pension debt predicament.

City Budget Director Bill McCarty called the pension issue “somewhat of a conundrum,” as the city’s employee head count has declined over the past few years and the city has put more money toward police and fire pensions, but its multimillion-dollar unfunded liabilities continue to grow. Meanwhile, he said, the city’s pension obligations diminish its ability to offer services to Springfield’s roughly 117,000 residents. Read the rest of this entry »

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Ald. McMenamin on pensions and more — Bishop On Air – Dec. 7, 2015

Bishop is joined in studio by Springfield Ward 7 Alderman Joe McMenamin to talk about pensions and the city’s ethics committee.

http://www.wmay.com

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Money to burn – Springfield Fire Department resists cuts Dec. 3, 2015

Bruce Rushton
The Illinois Times

Seven years ago, the city of Springfield faced a fiscal crisis so serious that then Mayor Tim Davlin formed a blue-ribbon committee to define the problem and recommend solutions.

The housing bubble had burst and the stock market had crashed. Springfield and other governments were laying off employees and instituting furloughs while the federal government propped up banks. Nearly 12 percent of the city’s corporate fund was going toward police and fire pensions, and the city was dipping into reserves, inviting cash flow problems and increased borrowing costs from lowered credit ratings. Read the rest of this entry »

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Suing over pensions – Unions say city can’t yank perk Oct. 29, 2015

Bruce Rushton
The Illinois Times

With tens of millions of public dollars at stake, unions representing city of Springfield employees have sued the city seeking to overturn a city council decision ending a pension-fattening perk that municipal officials say is unique to the capital city.

Since 2003, city workers have been allowed to accumulate, then cash out, two years’ worth of vacation in the year prior to retirement, inflating the salary for that year, which is used to calculate pension benefits. Read the rest of this entry »

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Now leaving Springfield Oct. 15, 2015

Chris Britt
The Illinois Times

The Illinois Times

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Springfield aldermen to vote next Tuesday on eliminating pricey pension perk Jul. 14, 2015

Jamie Munks
The State Journal-Register

Springfield aldermen will vote next week on eliminating an expensive employee perk that allows workers to cash out their vacation time early for a lump-sum payment. But a majority of the city council on Tuesday rejected axing the perk immediately.

As of June 1, 2016, city employees will no longer be able to cash in their unused vacation time up to a year before their retirement date Read the rest of this entry »

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Springfield mayor proposes pension summit Jun. 26, 2015

Jamie Munks
The State Journal-Register

Before Springfield city leaders begin creating the next city budget, Mayor Jim Langfelder plans to convene a summit to begin the address the city’s formidable police and fire pension debt.

As of fiscal year 2013, the city’s firefighter pension fund was only 43.6 percent funded, and the police pension fund was 51.6 percent funded. Langfelder said he intends to come Read the rest of this entry »

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Police and Fire Pensions Jan. 2, 2015

Chris Britt
The Illinois Times

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Some aldermen want say in nonunion pay raises Nov. 30, 2014

Jamie Munks
The State Journal-Register

After hearing that nonunion city employees are receiving cost-of-living wage increases this fiscal year, Springfield Ward 7 Ald. Joe McMenamin said he plans to again seek to require city council approval for any such decisions in the future. In an email to aldermen Nov. 21, Mayor Mike Houston said he had notified nonunion city employees on Nov. 2 that they were getting a 2 percent raise.

Earlier this year, McMenamin proposed an ordinance Read the rest of this entry »

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Aldermen reaffirm $1 million for police, fire pensions Nov. 4, 2014

Jamie Munks
The State Journal-Register

The Springfield City Council on Tuesday for a second time voted to dedicate $1 million toward the city’s police and firefighter pension debt amid calls to put the payment off until at least the end of the fiscal year. Ward 4 Ald. Frank Lesko asked his fellow aldermen to reconsider the ordinance they first approved months ago, urging them to put it off until at least Feb. 28, when the fiscal year ends.

The reaffirmation passed by a 6-2 vote, with Lesko and Ward 2 Ald. Gail Simpson voting against it. The measure came up again, after the allocation had already been approved once, because some of the language in the original ordinance needed to be updated, city officials said.

Ward 7 Ald. Joe McMenamin Read the rest of this entry »

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Springfield aldermen eye excess revenue to pay down pensions Jul. 27, 2014

Jamie Munks
The State Journal-Register

Three Springfield aldermen are sponsoring an ordinance that would see excess payment-in-lieu-of-taxes revenue the city receives devoted to paying down unfunded liabilities on police and fire pension funds. The ordinance would devote roughly $2 million in excess PILOT revenue from City Water, Light and Power to spending down the city’s hundreds of millions of dollars in unfunded liabilities for its police and fire pension funds.

The city budget projected about $7 million in PILOT monies would come in last fiscal year, when roughly $9 million is now sitting in city coffers from the revenue source. The money is currently in the corporate fund as part of the city’s unappropriated fund balance, Ward 7 Ald. Joe McMenamin Read the rest of this entry »

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Public safety pension costs weigh on Springfield’s city budget Jun. 28, 2014

Jamie Munks
The State Journal-Register

A shrinking city workforce, languishing infrastructure and equipment replacements that have become increasingly limited — these are among any number of issues one could argue have been exacerbated by growing contributions to police and fire pension funds in Springfield. A decade ago, the city put just over 5 percent of its entire $85 million corporate fund Read the rest of this entry »

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Help police! April 24, 2014

Chris Britt
The Illinois Times

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The Illinois Times

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Springfield leaders are in pension denial March 20, 2014

Ted Dabrowski, Illinois Policy Institute

For decades Illinois politicians ignored the state’s mounting pension debt. Now, with a state crisis that’s reeling out of control, Illinoisans are experiencing what happens when politicians put their heads in the sand.
Unfortunately, Springfield residents now find themselves headed in the same direction, but at the local level.

The city’s pension shortfall has jumped to $315 million, more than double what it was a decade ago Read the rest of this entry »

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Pensionzilla March 13, 2014

The Illinois Times
Chris Britt

il times britt cartoon pension

The IL-Times

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Letter: Think tank report painted accurate picture of Springfield pensions March 5, 2014

Sunday’s editorial regarding the financial condition of Illinois municipal pensions, and Springfield’s in particular, was a disappointing response to Illinois Policy Institute’s research.

Some flaws are inevitable in a report as massive and comprehensive as what IPI produced, but the big picture painted by the report is accurate and inescapably alarming. Pension debt grows, municipal services shrink and taxes rise.

The ever-worsening financial erosion of Springfield’s local municipal pensions over time is irrefutable. Read the rest of this entry »

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Amended city budget moves toward passage Feb. 25, 2014

Dan Petrella
The SJ-R

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Pension report

The Illinois Policy Institute used Tuesday’s meeting to unveil its new report titled “The Crisis Hits Home: Illinois’ Local Pension Problem.” The group bills itself as a “nonpartisan research and education organization” but has received more than $500,000 from GOP gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner over the past five years. Read the rest of this entry »

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Springfield’s unfunded pension liability grows by another $11M Dec. 14, 2013

Dan Petrella

After years of wrangling, the Illinois General Assembly this month passed legislation aimed at fixing the state’s public pension systems, the worst funded in the nation, by reducing benefits for retirees. Blocks away from the Capitol at Springfield city hall, there is no sweeping plan in place to address the capital city’s own underfunded pension plans for retired police officers and firefighters, both of which have seen their unfunded liabilities balloon over the past 25 years during four mayoral administrations.

In the fiscal year that ended in 1988, the city’s police pensions were 74.9 percent funded and firefighter pensions were 91.5 percent funded, according to actuarial reports prepared for the city. Those funding levels fell last fiscal year to 54 percent for police and 45.6 percent for firefighters. Read the rest of this entry »

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WSJ story echoes McMenamin warnings on pensions Nov. 7, 2013

Bruce Rushton

Springfield Ward 7 Ald. Joe McMenamin has long warned that the city is headed toward financial disaster thanks to unsustainable pension obligations.

He’s usually been a voice in the wilderness, the only “no” vote on collective bargaining agreements that contain raises McMenamin says will exacerbate an already untenable pension situation. Last month he held a press conference to blast the city’s police pension board for calculating retirement benefits based on temporary pay hikes, despite a state order to stop. No other aldermen attended. Read the rest of this entry »

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Pension wars Oct. 17, 2013

Police Spike Under Fire

Bruce Rushton
Springfield Mayor Mike Houston last week appointed the city’s budget director to fill a lapsed seat on the city’s Police Pension Board that has defied a state order to calculate pensions at a lower rate than has been the board’s practice.The appointment of budget director Bill McCarty came one day after Ward 7 Ald. Joe McMenamin called on Houston to fill the seat held by former alderman Tom Selinger, whose term had expired. McMenamin also said that the pension board should be following state directions. Read the rest of this entry »

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McMenamin: Outside pension board appointments needed Oct 10, 2013

Deana Stroisch
The State Journal-Register

Ward 7 Ald. Joe McMenamin on Thursday called on Mayor Mike Houston to appoint two new members to Springfield’s police pension board who come from outside the police ranks. McMenamin said appointing members from outside the department would allow for “balanced representation.” Read the rest of this entry »

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McMenamin: Pay spike ordinance denied Sep 25, 2013

Deana Stroisch
The State Journal-Register

Ward 7 Ald. Joe McMenamin’s request to eliminate the pension-boosting 5 percent pay spike for Springfield police command staff, including retiring Police Chief Robert Williams, is being blocked by the city’s legal department. McMenamin, who met with the editorial board of The State Journal-Register Wednesday, said that interim corporation counsel John Mehlick won’t draft the ordinance. Read the rest of this entry »

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$2 million proposed for city alley, drainage projects Sep 24, 2013

Deana Stroisch
The State Journal-Register

Mayor Mike Houston’s administration is recommending the city spend $2 million to fix Springfield’s worst alleys and drainage problems this fall and winter.

Ward 7 Ald. Joe McMenamin wants to cut that spending in half. At Tuesday’s Springfield City Council committee meeting, McMenamin asked the city’s top attorney to reduce the request by $1 million and also draft an ordinance that would allocate an extra $1 million toward payment of police and fire pensions. Read the rest of this entry »

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Mayor Houston criticized again for keeping ‘secrets’ Sep 17, 2013

Deana Stroisch
The State Journal-Register

Ward 7 Ald. Joe McMenamin on Tuesday called it “inexcusable” that the mayor didn’t inform aldermen about an audit and subsequent state order to change the way police pensions are calculated.

Because the Springfield City Council was left in the dark, McMenamin said aldermen approved a new contract with the city’s police union last December “under false pretenses.” “We’ve had enough secrets around here,” McMenamin said. “We didn’t need that secret.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Alderman: Eliminate pay-spike perk now Sep 09, 2013

Deana Stroisch
The State Journal-Register

Ward 7 Ald. Joe McMenamin wants the city to immediately eliminate the 5 percent pay spike for Springfield Police Department command staff, including retiring Police Chief Robert Williams. The longtime perk for police department employees is set to end Feb. 28. But McMenamin says the city shouldn’t wait that long. Read the rest of this entry »

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Council OKs funding for Hy-Vee construction Jan 08, 2013

Deana Stroisch
The State Journal-Register

Construction of a Hy-Vee grocery store along MacArthur Boulevard is expected to begin this spring, after Springfield aldermen Tuesday unanimously agreed to provide the company with $3.5 million in tax increment financing.

Ward 7 Ald. Joe McMenamin thanked local businesses and agencies, such as the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce and Town & Country Shopping Center, for making pledges to jump-start the TIF district. “Hy-Vee will transform a blighted block into an oasis and restore pride to nearby neighborhoods that felt abandoned by major retailers in recent years,” McMenamin said. Read the rest of this entry »

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Aldermen consider budget plan; McMenamin a ‘no’ Dec 28, 2012

Deana Stroisch
The State Journal-Register

Mayor Mike Houston’s proposed budget for next year will only worsen the city’s pension debt, says Ward 7 Ald. Joe McMenamin, who says he’s already planning to vote against it.McMenamin said he will vote “no” on the budget for the second year in a row “because it fails to address the police and fire pension debt while continuing unaffordable pay raises that are financed in effect by borrowing from our police and fire pension funds.” Read the rest of this entry »

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City of Springfield’s pension obligations continue to grow Dec 16, 2012

Deana Stroisch
The State Journal-Register

Springfield will be required to pay an additional $1 million next year toward police and fire pensions, bringing the city’s total payment for fiscal 2014 to more than $18 million, according to budget director Bill McCarty. The $1 million increase comes as a surprise, McCarty said, and probably will force the administration to delay equipment-purchase requests from the police and fire departments, among others.

Mayor Mike Houston wants the city to pay even more toward police and fire pensions next year. He told aldermen recently that the city plans to continue to assume an investment rate of return of 7.5 percent, but Read the rest of this entry »

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IL Times – Feb. 2012

Chris Britt
The Illinois Times

FullSizeRender

The Illinois Times

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Municipal pensions eat more, but they’re still hungry

Bruce Rushton

Whether the city of Springfield is facing a pension crisis in police and firefighter retirement systems depends on who’s doing the talking. Mayor Mike Houston and Bill McCarty, director of the city’s budget and management office, say that while pension costs are always a concern, the city is in relatively good shape.

But Ward 7 Ald. Joe McMenamin warns that the city faces fiscal catastrophe if pensions for police and firefighters aren’t reined in. “It’s a major financial problem,” McMenamin says. Read the rest of this entry »

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Police & Fire Pension Funds Actuarial Reports Dated 7 Dec 2011

Joe McMenamin

This week I reviewed the 2 most recent Springfield Police and Fire Pension Fund Actuarial Reports, dated 7 Dec 2011, which I can email to you if desired.
Springfield Police Pension Fund 2011 Actuarial Report… (download as PDF)
Springfield Fire Pension Fund 2011 Actuarial Report… (download as PDF)

These reports paint a pension picture worse than what I discussed at the most recent Council/Committee of the Whole meetings.

During the most recent 12 month reporting period, the unfunded liabilities for these two funds grew by a combined $30 million – from $174 million unfunded liability FYE Feb 2010, to $204 million unfunded liability FYE Feb 2011.

When the SJR devoted an editorial to this subject back on Jan 10, 2010 two years ago, the combined unfunded liability for both pensions stood at $162 million. It is now at $204m, and Read the rest of this entry »

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