A new pension reform plan introduced Wednesday aims to alleviate Illinois’ $95 billion unpaid liability by making local school districts pay more for teachers’ retirement benefits, while increasing employee contributions.
Rep. Elaine Nekritz (D-Northbrook) unveiled the proposal on Wednesday, saying the plan would pay for the state’s entire unfunded liability.
The legislation, as it stands, would demand incremental half-percent increases over the next 16 years. Bloom Township High School District 206 is already preparing for the financial burden.
The shift would lead to a $90,000 increase in spending at Bloom 206 next year, according to Business Manager Ann Williams. The amount would nearly double at close to $180,000 the following year.
“That would have a significant impact on our budget,” Williams said, adding that the district’s biggest goal is to avoid any negative impact on students.
“Just like anything else, we would try to balance the budget and make cuts that do not impact the children directly,” Williams said. “But it could potentially have an impact on the students. We hope it doesn’t.”
Scott Krysinski, a social studies teacher at Bloom High School, said District 206 is struggling enough to make ends meet, without the State adding another financial burden.
“We have been making cuts every year I have been at Bloom,” said Krysinski, who has been teaching in the district for nine years. “Shifting the burden of pension reform on local school districts will further cripple high poverty school districts like ours as well as downstate districts.”
Krysinski describes the shift as an ineffective solution piled onto the backs of people who did not cause the problem.
"Our state politicians have not funded the pension funds for years," Krysinski said in an e-mail. "This is no fault of public workers. This proposal essentially balances the pension debt on the backs of teachers, police officers, nurses, caregivers and other public servants, both active and retired."
Krysinski cited Section 5 of Article XIII in the Illinois Constitution as proof that the State has an obligation to fulfill its end of a longtime contract:
Membership in any pension or retirement system of the State, any unit of local government or school district, or any agency or instrumentality thereof, shall be an enforceable contractual relationship, the benefits of which shall not be diminished or impaired.
In the past, suburban Republicans have vehemently opposed shifting pension costs onto districts and teachers, but the State's rising pension costs have lawmakers feeling backed into a corner. Legislators have until Jan. 9 to come to an agreement. That's when a new General Assembly will be sworn in and all legislation will start over.
Along with several other school districts, Bloom officials have actively reached out to legislators to let them know about the potential detriment to students the pension shift could cause, Williams said.