Crystal Lake superintendent to earn $190K salary following school district vote

Crystal Lake superintendent to earn $190K salary following school district vote

One Crystal Lake school district superintendent has become the latest public official to collect a salary nearing $200,000, following a vote by the district board.

Illinois has the fifth-largest number of school districts in the nation. And some local officials in those districts can earn an annual income above that of every state governor.

In Crystal Lake Elementary School District 47, the board on March 20 unanimously approved a contract that will lift Superintendent Kathy Hinz’s income closer to that threshold. The five-year employment contract included a 4.6 percent salary increase, boosting the superintendent’s annual earnings to $190,000 from her previous salary of $181,600, according to the Northwest Herald.

The contract also sets an annual pay-increase agreement, ranging from a minimum raise of 1.9 percent to a possible maximum of 2.75 percent, established at the beginning of each contract year.

This raise coincides with a property tax hike on local residents. In December 2017, Crystal Lake Elementary School District 47 hiked its property tax levy by more than 4 percent.

In addition to the salary increase, Hinz’s employee pension fund contributions will also be covered by the district. The contract stipulates that the contributions Hinz is supposed to make to the Illinois Teachers’ Retirement System, or TRS, will “be paid by the Board in lieu of contributions by the Superintendent.”

Pension pickups,” in which school districts “pick up” state-mandated pension contributions on employees’ behalf, are by no means uncommon – nor are they sustainable. Nearly two-thirds of Illinois school districts, and therefore taxpayers, pick up at least a portion of every employee’s required contribution to TRS, according to the 2015 Illinois State Board of Education salary report. Subsidies from the state often blind school districts from the true cost of employee compensation, thereby encouraging such pickups. TRS is $74 billion in debt as a result, a shortfall taxpayers will be expected to pick up.

Annual pension payouts are based on a percentage – up to 75 percent – of the four highest consecutive years of salary within the employee’s final 10 years of service. Ramping up employee salary at the end of one’s tenure, a practice known as “pension spiking,” can inflate the employee’s pension, further straining the taxpayer.

Residents of McHenry County, where the school district is located, are already overtaxed – a fact they appear to have already discovered, given that the county has seen a net loss of 11,200 people to other counties since 2010.

But there are a handful of sensible reforms lawmakers could introduce to help ease that burden and return a sense certainty to Illinoisans.

A 401(k)-style retirement system could help restore solvency to Illinois’ broken pension system. Another solution would be to shift pension cost responsibility from the state to local governments, which would minimize bad spending habits. Moreover, an immediate freeze on property tax levies should be lawmakers’ highest priority.

While one administrator contract alone isn’t enough to warrant concern, the larger problem of poor spending priorities should be enough for taxpayers to take note.

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