Schaumburg Park District pensions costing taxpayers millions

Schaumburg Park District pensions costing taxpayers millions

One former Schaumburg Park District employee alone has accumulated more than $1 million in pension benefits after retiring at age 55.

What’s the explanation for Illinoisans’ rising property tax bills? Residents of the village of Schaumburg, for example, pay among the highest property taxes in the state.

Overwhelmingly, the primary driver behind growing property tax bills is growing pension costs. And Schaumburg Park District offers local taxpayers one example of the benefits they’re on the hook for.

Records from the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund, or IMRF, show the park district’s 64 current IMRF-enrolled retirees have collectively received more than $6 million in pension payments.

More than $1 million of that sum has gone to one Schaumburg Park District pensioner alone, Dan Schourek. He logged 35 years of service and retired in 2004 at age 55. Schourek’s current annual benefit – more than $88,000 – eclipses the $75,000 he was required to contribute to the fund over the course of his entire career. Another park district retiree, Daniel Otto, collects an annual pension payout of nearly $103,000 while having contributed about $126,000 to the fund over his career. The median household income in Schaumburg, meanwhile, is roughly $75,600, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

IMRF pensions are based in part on employees’ end-of-career salaries. And looking at current Schaumburg Park District employee compensation, one can see why park district pension benefits will continue to strain local taxpayers. According to district compensation records, nine Schaumburg Park District employees earned more than $100,000 in 2017. Records show executive-level incomes, in particular, enjoying substantial annual increases.

Individual pensioners, however, do not deserve blame for the Illinois General Assembly’s failures. State lawmakers designed, and have continued to mismanage, the IMRF system.

And accordingly, it is those state lawmakers who must reform the system for both taxpayers, who pay far more into IMRF than employees, and IMRF pensioners, whose retirement security is threatened by the flaws inherent in defined-benefit pensions.

More than 20,000 state university employees have already rejected pensions, instead opting for stable, 401(k)-style retirement plans. This alternative should be made available to all state and local government employees. But ultimately, government employers need the flexibility to make sensible adjustments to future, not-yet-earned benefits for government workers, a reform that can only come by amending the Illinois Constitution.

The longer Springfield neglects to pursue those needed reforms, the more government workers’ retirements, and the taxpayers who fund them, are put in jeopardy.

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