The Herald News | Pension issues highlighted in Taxpayers United report

Taxpayers United of America’s operations director, Jared Labell, was quoted by The Herald-News in an article about Taxpayers United of America’s recent pension release for both Will County and Joliet.

TDHArtThe two top police officials in Elwood also get two of the highest pensions from the Joliet Police Department, according to a report last week from Taxpayers United of America.

 “Hard-earned money,” Elwood Police Chief Fred Hayes said when asked about his $120,000-plus annual pension from his 31 years with Joliet, where he retired in 2011.
Both Hayes and Elwood Commander Pat Kerr retired from Joliet to take jobs as the No. 1 and 2 officers in the Elwood Police Department. Kerr’s pension also tops $120,000, according to Taxpayers United.
“I think in today’s economic climate, regardless of what field they’re in, many retirees from one company go to work for another company,” Hayes said, noting that he knows educators in the public sector and engineers in the private sector who have done the same thing.
A look at the list of pensions compiled by Taxpayers United shows some other retirees working elsewhere.
Steve Engledow, chief of the New Lenox Township Fire Department, is a retired deputy chief from Joliet with an annual pension of $116,000, according to Taxpayers United.
The second-highest government pension in Will County is the $239,000 paid to John Harper, who retired as superintendent of Plainfield School District 202 in 2014 and became principal at Providence Catholic High School.
Jared Labell, director of operations for Chicago-based Taxpayers United, agreed that private sector employees also retire with a pension only to make more money working elsewhere.
But Labell said private businesses are harder pressed to put pension plans in line with revenues.
“At the very least, that has to be determined from the business perspective that if we’re giving that percentage to our employees, we also have to stay afloat as a business,” Labell said.
Taxpayers United has been on a pension crusade for months, spotlighting government pension benefits for state employees and in counties across Illinois. The release of Will County numbers was its latest report aimed at drawing attention to the size of government pensions.
Labell said Taxpayers United does not want to change what retirees are getting. But it does want to see changes in what new employees get and even what current employees put into their pensions.
“We understand that people who decided to be police officers and teachers went in with expectations,” he said.
But Labell said he hears from young police officers and teachers worried retirement money won’t be there because of government pension problems.
Hayes, who also is president of the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, said he, too, hears that concern from young police officers.
“They’re asking if these funds are sustainable and if they will be available in the future,” Hayes said. “It is important that we make some changes so the system is sustainable.”
One of the top pensioners at Joliet Junior College is Andy Mihelich, a former administrator who gets $138,000 a year. Mihelich is retired, but active. He is chairman of the Joliet Junior College Board of Trustees and just ran an unsuccessful bid to become mayor of Joliet.
Mihelich said he has been prepared for his pension to be capped.
“I thought there would be pension reform in Illinois,” he said. “I’ve been waiting, but no one in Springfield seems to want to do anything.”

Killer Taxes Choke the Life Out of Will County

View as PDF Chicago, IL – Taxpayers United of America (TUA) has released its most recent government pension study exposing individual pensions for Joliet municipal, Will County, Will County government schools, and Joliet Junior College retirees.
“Across the 5 state pension funds, there are more than 12,154 government pensioners collecting six-figure pensions and over 85,893 pensioners collecting more than $50,000 where the local per-capita income is about $30,377 and the state debt per capita is $24,959,” said Jared Labell, TUA’s director of operations.
“266 Will County government teachers are drawing more than $100,000 in annual pension payments and 2,092 are getting more than $50,000! On average, these government pensioners contribute only about 5.5% to their own retirement payout.”
“Until 2011, Joliet was the fastest growing city in the region but that growth has slowed to just .85% in 2014. Government is the problem – government is the largest employer in Joliet and government payroll and pensions come from taxation. Government jobs don’t create wealth or growth – they simply siphon more money away from individual taxpayers.”
“The Joliet police and fire pension funds are in abysmal shape, each funded only about 50%.  Worse yet, Joliet’s IMRF liabilities are only about 35% funded. This is putting services in jeopardy, as pensions for services rendered in the past are competing for tax dollars needed for current services.”
“Taxpayers already are contributing four times as much to the pension funds than the government employees themselves, so for every dollar an employee puts into the fund, you and I put in 4.  Forcing taxpayers to pay such a heavy portion of someone else’s retirement is criminal.”
“It is time to protect the future of taxpayers who have been scammed by politicians and union thugs into going along with a system that creates and constitutionally protects a special class of government elite.”
“It’s also time for union leadership to have a frank discussion with the rank and file, educating them on the inevitable collapse of an unsustainable crony system designed to siphon money from taxpayers for the benefit of the few. The unions should use those dues forced from members to bail out the pension system rather than use those funds to elect political cronies who keep them in power.”
“Take a look at John R. Harper who retired from Plainfield SD 202. He gets $239,019 in annual pension payments. Retiring at only 54, his taxpayer funded pension payout will accumulate to more than $11 million! And his personal investment in that payout? A mere 3.2%.”
“Then there is Daniel T. Tapper, retired from Will County government. He gets $122,126 in annual pension payments and because he retired at only 50, those payments with compounded annual cost of living adjustments will accumulate to $6.4 million! His personal investment was only about 2.6% or $166,905.”
Click to view pensions for

“The average Social Security ‘pension’ is only about $15,000 a year and taxpayers pay 15% of every penny they earn for that modest payout.”
“This government pension system is the single cause of Illinois’ critical financial situation and it is mathematically impossible to tax our way out of this situation. 80% of local taxes go to fund government employee pay, pensions, and benefits.”
“The Illinois government has failed us; local governments have failed us. It is in everyone’s best interest to solve the pension problem before the system completely collapses. It is no longer a matter of ‘if’ it will collapse, but when.”
“Immediately place all new hires into 401(k) style retirement savings accounts, increase member contributions to their retirement fund, increase retirement age for full benefits, and increase member contributions to 50% of health care premiums. Anything short of these reforms will do nothing to permanently solve the problem. If it takes a Constitutional Amendment, then we need to get that on the ballot as soon as possible!”