Springfield tops list of worst-funded municipal pension systems

February 25 2014

Springfield spends 100 percent of its property taxes on police, fire and city pensions

State lawmakers spent the last few years debating state-level government pension reform in the capital, but a new study released by the Illinois Policy Institute suggests they should now turn their attention to pensions for the city of Springfield itself.

Researchers at the nonpartisan Illinois Policy Institute studied pension systems of all towns outside the city of Chicago that 1) participate in the IMRF, or Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund, 2) have dedicated police and fire pension funds and 3) have a population above 15,000. The study found that, of the 20 largest cities that were studied, the city of Springfield tops the list as having the worst-funded pension systems in the state. 

“Every last penny of the city of Springfield’s property taxes goes to pensions for city workers,” said Ted Dabrowski, vice president of policy and lead author of the report. “But even spending 100 percent of property taxes on pensions is not enough to make the pension payment; mounting pension costs have forced Springfield to cut its police force by nearly 15 percent since 2007 to help pay for pensions.”

Here are some highlights from the report, titled, “The crisis hits home: Illinois’ local pension problem”:

  • Springfield’s pension systems scored the worst in an audit of Illinois’ 20 largest cities.
  • Springfield residents pay four times more toward city pensions than government employees do, yet the city’s pensions only have 50 cents for every $1 that has been promised for the retirement costs of city workers.
  • Pension costs consume every last penny of the city of Springfield’s general fund property taxes.

“What Springfield and other cities need is real pension reform,” Dabrowski said. “Taxpayers, legislators and city workers should know the cost of public retirement systems with certainty. City workers should have a retirement they can count on – one that they control.”

Ted Dabrowski will be presenting the report findings to the Springfield City Council today (Tuesday) at 5:30 p.m. at the Municipal Center West Building, 300 S. 7th St. Springfield, IL 62701.

Report is available online

For bookings or interviews with Ted Dabrowski, VP of Policy at the Illinois Policy Institute: (312) 607-4977

For bookings or interviews with Joe McMenamin, Ward 7 Springfield alderman: (217) 201-2956.