“At the state level, Illinois needs constitutional pension reform. The changes that were passed under Madigan benefit a few to the detriment of the many state taxpayers. The 3% compounding cost-of-living increase every year is ridiculous.”

“Neither savings accounts nor Social Security provide that level of year-over-year increase. Social Security maybe goes up 0.5%, and some years there is no raise. Some people make more money in pension payments than they did working, and that’s not fair for taxpayers.”

“In recent years, the state and city’s inability to pay pensions in addition to fiscal mismanagement get passed to taxpayers through never-ending tax increases and dwindling services.”

“I’ve lived in Peoria for over 50 years. I think the city of Peoria needs to reconsider how they do their budgeting. Just as we do personal finances, and individuals take into account their income and expenses and can’t buy more than you can afford, the city needs to show restraint in their budgeting and spending.”

“Fiscal mismanagement has reduced our services. We used to have street sweepers, and now they come around maybe once a year. In the wintertime, they reduced residential plowing. The city will mainly do main roads because they claim they can’t hire the workers to run the snowplows.”

“Our garbage fee used to be paid for annually by the city through our taxes, but then they passed a garbage fee which was supposed to be $50 a year. It’s up to between $200 and $1,000  a year now. People weren’t paying the fee itself, so they included it in our taxes again.”

“Furthermore, when we moved to Peoria in the 1970s, the EPA told the city that they had to replace stormwater pipes which were mixing waste and [rainwater]. In 2020, the EPA fined the city $100,000, so they passed the pipe reconstruction costs on to residents as an additional stormwater fee, or ‘rain tax,’ charged quarterly.”

“City officials claim pension payments are going up faster than the city can handle them. Yet, several city officials make comfortable pensions and retirements, and continue to spend our tax dollars on things that don’t serve the taxpayers.”

“In several cases, the local government has bailed out businesses on the backs on taxpayers. We pay our taxes and trust that the city will make its pension payments, but these bailouts trap taxpayers in a deeper fiscal hole. In the case of the [Hotel] Pere Marquette, Peoria should have made their pension payments, but instead paid [$7-8 million] to the developers which subsequently went bankrupt. So, the city had to implement a pension fee to repay the pension money we’ve already paid once.”

“They’ve also used taxpayers’ hard-earned money to save the Civic Center. I don’t have anything against the Civic Center, but the hotel, restaurant and amusement taxes were supposed to be temporary to get the center built. When the Civic Center was paid off, they didn’t want to lose the… tax income, so they planned an addition to an empty Civic Center. Recently, the city took out another $4 million bond to provide more financial assistance to the center. They continue to charge the… tax, and they aren’t making very good use of our tax money.”

“The city received $46 million in pandemic relief, which they technically can’t use directly for pensions. But the extra revenue could be used to offset other tax hikes, and pension payments could be made with other tax revenue. The city council just voted to kill the pension fee since citizens weren’t paying, but they’re scrambling to make up the $2 million shortfall. If the city made pension payments on time, we wouldn’t need continued added fees.”

“I have also noticed that city officials or government workers close to retirement participate in pension spiking. Pensioners tend to receive in retirement 75% of the average of their last five years of salaries. Therefore, it is a common practice that workers close to retirement receive promotions or are moved into leadership roles for a short time in their final years, unjustly spiking pensions on the taxpayer dime.”

“Even if that’s 10 people a year retiring with inflated pensions in Peoria, that equates to hundreds of thousands of dollars in liability added on to taxpayers and even less money for the city to spend on essential services. If high-paid retirees and city officials are doing this all across the state, that’s making our state’s pension deficit even more difficult.”

“Former Peoria city employees have also gone across state lines to collect both pensions from Illinois and out of state. These examples of abuse are unacceptable, and very unjust for taxpayers.”

Michael Levan
Peoria, Illinois