Pension spiking costs continue to hit Illinois taxpayers

Link: https://www.thecentersquare.com/illinois/pension-spiking-costs-continue-to-hit-illinois-taxpayers/article_b899de84-a53e-11ec-b683-6bf4098dc466.html

Excerpt:

School districts sent $8,839,754.35 to the Teachers’ Retirement System of the state of Illinois to cover the cost of excess salary and excess sick time payments given to educators at the end of their careers in years 2018-2019 and 2019-2020, according to records obtained by The Center Square. That’s on top of the more than $50 million in penalties districts have paid to TRS since the 2005 law passed, including $23.8 million since fiscal 2014. But districts only paid a fraction of what they actually owed due to exemptions built into the 2005 law.

“In the first 10 years of the program, 2005 to 2015, the excess salary contributions levied against school districts totaled $149.5 million, or an average of $14.95 million per year,” said Dave Urbanek, director of communications for the Teachers’ Retirement System of the state of Illinois. “However, because of exemptions to the 6% threshold built into the law at that time, districts paid only $39 million during that decade, or an average of $3.9 million per year.”

State Sen. Craig Wilcox, R-McHenry, said some local taxpayers probably aren’t aware of how school districts are spending tax dollars. The majority of school district funding in Illinois comes from local property taxes. Most national analyses show Illinois residents pay, on average, the second highest property taxes in the U.S., behind only New Jersey.

Author(s): Brett Rowland

Publication Date: 18 Mar 2022

Publication Site: The Center Square

One Year After Teachers’ Retirement System Head’s Departure, Report Details More Turnover At Top

Link: https://www.nprillinois.org/statehouse/2021-09-08/one-year-after-teachers-retirement-system-heads-departure-report-details-more-turnover-at-top-1

Excerpt:

One year after the head of Illinois’ largest public employee pension fund resigned due to what the fund has only described at “performance issues,” a recently published report by the state’s chief ethics officer reveals the circumstances behind the departures of two more former high-ranking officials at the pension fund in 2020.

The former chief information officer at the Illinois’ Teachers’ Retirement System repeatedly directed contracts toward the company he founded and also lied about having severed ties with the company, according to a report published last month by Illinois Executive Inspector General Susan Haling. TRS manages the pensions of more than 427,000 current and retired teachers as well as pension beneficiaries.

The report centers on former CIO Jay Singh’s conflicts of interest, but also brings to light the firing of TRS’ former chief financial officer, Jana Bergschneider, who was fired last July as the investigation unfolded. Singh resigned in April of last year, two months after he was interviewed as part of an internal investigation into his conflicts of interest.

….

Bergschneider was terminated from TRS on July 2, 2020 based upon her “work performance and conduct related to the procurement process on the Gemini Project,” the OEIG report said, apparently quoting from a reason given to investigators by the pension fund.

Ingram was placed on administrative leave at the end of that month — a result of the TRS board’s unanimous vote after an investigation into performance issued conducted by Chicago Law firms King and Spalding. He resigned a few days later and TRS remains tight-lipped about the exact reason for Ingram’s departure, calling it a personnel matter.

But Urbanek reiterated to NPR Illinois the same reasoning given every inquiring media outlet in the last year: that Ingram “had difficulties meeting performance metrics in his contract.”

Author(s): Hannah Meisel

Publication Date: 8 September 2021

Publication Site: NPR Illinois