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From 2015 through 2017, 86 suburban school districts combined to pay more than $2.7 million in penalties to the Illinois Teachers' Retirement System to cover pension obligations created by raises above 6 percent given to school employees. That's according to a Daily Herald analysis of TRS records acquired through a public records request that also show taxpayers statewide covered $11.2 million in penalties over those three years.
Elgin Area School District U-46 paid the most among the suburban school districts -- $436,542 -- during those three years as a result of raises topping 6 percent a year for nearly 100 employees, according to the analysis. Algonquin-based Community Unit District 300 paid $312,949, Aurora East Unit District 131 paid $303,151, Stevenson High School District 125 in Lincolnshire paid $133,178, Bensenville-based Fenton High School District paid $117,152, and Indian Prairie Unit District 204 in Naperville and Aurora paid $107,055.
"We see absorbing these penalties as fiscally responsible because we know we'll recoup savings on the other side in pretty quick order by replacing those positions with younger individuals earning smaller salaries," Stevenson spokesman Jim Conrey said.
The Daily Herald quotes CTBA's Ralph Martire in commenting on provisions of the state's Fiscal Year 2019 budget aimed at reducing pension costs--and whether to expect real savings.
"Go ahead and do it, it's not bad government, but it's not going to solve the real problem," said Ralph Martire, executive director of the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, a bipartisan government finance think tank based in Chicago.
"It's a debt problem; it's never been a benefit problem."