Police and fire pensions in the healthy zone

BGA report: Relative to neighbors, Forest Park funding above average

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By Jean Lotus


Pension funding for the village of Forest Park's fire and police departments is healthier than some of its neighbors, according to an analysis by the Better Government Association, released Aug. 5.  

The village's firefighter pension funds are 58 percent funded, according to the survey. Forest Park police pension funds are 66 percent funded.

Out of 121 police and 80 fire pension funds, 58 (or one quarter) of the systems are less than half-funded, the BGA reports, meaning "fewer than 50 cents for every dollar owed in long-term benefits."

Getting severely low funds up-to-date may require tax hikes, or even liquidations of assets, says the report. The BGA said the ideal amount of funding for pensions should be around 80 percent, but 204 Cook County municipalities (or 94 percent) were below the 80 percent threshold.

In neighboring North Riverside, the village has proposed privatizing the fire department to make up for a shortfall of $8.5 million in pension funds. The Illinois Department of Insurance (IDI) sent North Riverside a warning letter in February demanding that they "take immediate steps to bring the village into compliance" with pension funding code. Between 2009 and 2012, North Riverside paid just $100,000 of the $2 million it was required to pay into its fire pension fund.

In Stone Park, until recently, the police fund was at 7 percent, according to the BGA. The village issued a $2 million bond to pay pension debts and now is 23 percent funded.

Melrose Park's firefighter and police pension is 32 percent owed, and Maywood has contributed less than 35 percent for police and fire pensions.

Forest Park is not in that situation, said Village Administrator Tim Gillian. 

"[Pension fund payments are] a very difficult payment to make, and we've been lucky to make them all along," Gillian said. 

"We are lucky the market investments are doing well; that certainly helped," he added.

Gillian said actuarial numbers expect municipalities to earn around 7 percent per year with pension investments. Once, early in his tenure with the village, the stock market had a bad year and those investments lost around 19 percent, he said. 

"They took a bad hit and that meant we had an effective loss of 26 percent. We just had to wait and see if the market came back up, and luckily it did."

The village of Forest Park owes $10,666,924 for the police pension fund and $9,673,129 for the firefighter's fund. 

The amount required by pension payments increases every year, Gillian said. 

This year's appropriation for the police pension fund is $953,200. It's up $132,000 or 14 percent from last year's amount. The village's contribution taxed for the firefighter fund rose $156,480 year over year. That's a 22 percent increase. 

A state law passed by the General Assembly in 2010 gives pension funds the power to intercept sales taxes, grants and other revenues owed to towns by the state "if required contributions aren't made," the BGA report says. That possible seizure of municipal sales taxes and other refunds (which will happen in "gradually increasing increments") will start in 2016.

According to the BGA, this has caused other very small towns with their own fire departments, such as McCook, Forest View and Chicago Ridge, to think about joining a fire protection district. 

Because Forest Park has been paying the payments all along, the village isn't in immediate danger of pension funds seizing their state rebates. 

Gillian said the rising pension bite takes up most of the revenues as property taxes are beginning to rise again.

"Almost every year the increase required in the police and fire pensions completely eats up any new money the village gets from real estate taxes," Gillian said.

Email: jlotus@forestparkreview.com Twitter: @FP_Review

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Sharon Daly from Forest Park, Illinois  

Posted: September 22nd, 2014 8:12 PM

@ Marty. Yup. And thanks for saying it again.

Marty Tellalian from Forest Park  

Posted: September 22nd, 2014 7:44 PM

As I stated when I ran for mayor in 2011, FP is making promises that we cannot keep. While the pension benefits might be too generous, the employees should not be blamed for having good negotiators. Elected officials are entirely at fault for knowingly deferring pension payments to allow them to increase services without increasing taxes. Elected officials have forced us into debt primarily to stay in power regardless of the long term consequences which are higher taxes and reduced services.

Bill Dwyer  

Posted: September 22nd, 2014 3:21 PM

The 'deal After deal After deal After deal After deal' was covered in the media. Each time. FoPa Watcher's right, the problem doesn't lie so much in deals made but in promises broken. Going forward, the automatic annual 3 percent increases must be addressed, with no more lowering of the eligible retirement age. Was age 60 for cops and fire, now 55, with past proposals to make it 50. That's crazy and unsustainable. We need to be fair to first responders and also responsible to tax payers.

FoPa Watcher  

Posted: September 22nd, 2014 1:02 PM

@Mike, that is just one part of the paper trail. With each contract signed the obligations and responsibilities were delineated. The public employees fulfilled theirs. The state shirked theirs. Via "Pension Holidays" they creatively refinanced their obligations creating the "crisis" we face now. The monies owed to pensions were spent on other things. Corporate Tax breaks, subsidies, window dressing and sweetheart deals. As long as you're seeking explanations, those, IMO are where we must start. What does the State have to show for all of their corporate largesse? Where is the accountability? By all means, the books must be reconciled. Not just for pensions.


Posted: September 22nd, 2014 2:09 AM

There was no single deal. There was deal. After deal. After deal. After deal. After deal. Read the Illinois Pension Code. Article 3 - Police Pension Fund - Municipalities 500,000 And Under. Article 4 - Firefighters' Pension Fund - Municipalities 500,000 And Under. State legislators hiked the benefits over time. Locally pay was hiked. This was not explained to voters. Politicians and special interest groups and lobbyists worked it out behind the scenes.

Aeneas McHanlon  

Posted: September 15th, 2014 1:03 PM

Agree with FoPa Watcher 100 % a deal is a deal! Sometimes I think FoPa Watcher should be in politics!! He's so smart!

FoPa Watcher  

Posted: September 14th, 2014 12:09 PM

IMO, public sector workers have nothing to explain. Pensions, from the labor side were an acceptable method of deferred compensation for workers. No more; no less. The deals were fair when struck. Politicians have to explain why they failed to fund their obligations. Why they borrowed and spent funds that should have been set aside. Why they cooked the books. Why they ballooned the shortfalls to the point that they now say they can never pay what they owe. Why they treated taxpayer dollars like Monopoly money. The "problem" has been "fixed" for new hires. What remains is a debt that must be paid. There is a clear paper trail for the shenanigans that have been pulled. Reconcile the books? That's Fine. Just hold the responsible parties responsible.


Posted: September 13th, 2014 12:29 PM

Politicians and public sector workers have not explained to the public the pension benefit hikes. Ditto for retiree healthcare hikes. In most Illinois public sector pension funds, the lifetime employee contribution is recouped in the first 1 - 3 years of retirement. Add to that salary hikes during the employees career. To hike a pension, hike the benefits and hike the salary. That's what was done. Never explained to the public. That's a promise? Will enough people stay in IL to fund the hikes?

Rich Gray from Forest Park  

Posted: August 22nd, 2014 6:03 PM

Frank-I'd love to sit down and have a conversation with you about these issues that have been brought up in this thread. Stop by my station and I'll put on a pot of coffee. In fact, I'd love for all the haters of first responders to stop by for a chat especially you so called Union trade workers. It's ok to privatize Fire Fighters but if your company decided to do it to you, I'm sure you'd be singing a different tune. I'm sure your IBEW brothers would love to hear your for privatization. Stop by

Rich Gray from Forest Park  

Posted: August 22nd, 2014 5:56 PM

I have to say thank you for the good laugh. It's been a while since I've read some silly comments. Observer, thank you for the support. Obviously, there are some who drink from the political Kool Aid believing that pension are the cause of financial woes and not the mismanagement of funds. If that's what get's you through life-go for it. For those who really think FFs only work 2 hours out of the day, there's something really wrong with you. You should go to you local fire house and ask the FFs.

WirePoints from Wilmette  

Posted: August 22nd, 2014 5:06 PM

This article has sparked more discussion than you may know. Articles about this article, linked here http://wp.me/p2Oseh-4bl and here http://wp.me/p2Oseh-4eD both got republished in PensionTsunami, which is read nationally.


Posted: August 22nd, 2014 9:41 AM

@ Bob Trulio If you knew the Beverly neighborhood, you would rephrase your quote to include "everyone is in the trades, either electrician, pipe fitter, painter, police officer or fireman" and they get along well & work together. Yep even side jobs - Your statement is simply a cheap shot at Rich Gray. Painters aren't spending 72 straight hours on the job site, getting called out in the middle of the night to rush into a burning building. Stop hating! Pay your taxes and move on.

Neighborly Advice from Forest Park  

Posted: August 21st, 2014 7:04 PM

All Rich Gray does is complain about being treated unfairly... The whole world is working against him and the Firemen.. Fact is over 600 municipalities ate underfunded due to exorbitant pay and benefits to you guys that work a few hours a day for around 100 days a year. You might want to join the world that 99% of is live in, not this Kingdom of Entitlement that is financially killing communities... Private Services can do your job and will if you dont adapt.. Dont be like the Dinosaurs..

local Brother from burbs  

Posted: August 21st, 2014 6:09 PM

Congrats Bob and Frank...Thanks for standing up to the Bullies.... They use scare tactics to try and persuade the public that private companies can't do their job... The private companies train them to be both firemen and paramedics... I'll take them for the price compared to the lifelong pensions that Forest Park will have to pay forever...And stay out of our Fields!!!!! IBEW Brother.

Bob Trulio from Forest Park  

Posted: August 21st, 2014 5:58 PM

Thank You Frank S. for pointing out the glaring problems with Firemen like Rich Gray.... I grew up in Beverly where everyone is in the trades, either electrician, pipe fitter, painter...etc... Ando now pay Union dues and lose alot of my "local" to firefighters who work about 100 days a year and then take "side jobs" from guys like me and my Union Brothers.... Go cry somewhere else... My taxes pay your salary, benefits, pension and your work injuries...along with Kelly Days(incredible)..Boo Hoo..

Frank Strelczyk from Forest Park  

Posted: August 21st, 2014 3:38 PM

Im looking forward to asking Rich Gray why we should support him, when clearly his pension and benefits, are literally destroying towns like ours financially. If he cant see that his pay and benefits are so out of line compared to hard working Americans, then Good Luck. Just remember my "Union Brothers" work hard to pay our bills, but all to often we fund guys like him taking our jobs on their "literally" hundreds of days off a year. No Support for you from Locals around here.

FoPa Watcher  

Posted: August 17th, 2014 10:48 AM

@Brian- Are you sure? A case could be made that public officials knew they were underfunding pensions, diverting funds to pet projects without needing to explain to the voting public and avoid accountability. On a small scale, who would notice? When such actions take place in the private sector, it's classified as fraud. How is it less of a fraud when lawmakers try to, retroactively, legalize it?


Posted: August 17th, 2014 10:34 AM

This is interesting, I agree with all the top guns here on the FPR Senate, FoPa, Dwyer & Brian! (sorry Jerry ya just didn't make the cut. keep working hard though ;) Now, just waiting for Sharon to weigh in..hopefully she agrees that a contract is an agreement in writing between two or more individuals or entities in which a court can impose penalties in the event one party attempts to negate his or her promise as set forth in the signed document. There should be no ambiguity in a contract. ;)

Brian Kuhr from Forest Park  

Posted: August 17th, 2014 9:39 AM

The notion behind the push towards contract workers for public service positions is based on the "free market" principle that employees, public or private, should be paid as little as the market will allow. The private companies, however, collect a nice profit for "supplying" contract help which could be more sensibly spent on salary and benefits for people who actually keep our homes safe.

FoPa Watcher  

Posted: August 17th, 2014 8:17 AM

Another article topic morphing into something completely different in order to avoid the issue at hand. Regardless of whether FPFD becomes a contracted service, its pension obligations remain 42% un(der)funded. And this is somehow classified as a healthy fiscal position? Our public employees have held up 100% of their end of payments into the funds. The village has not. Instead, they met the statutory (legal) requirments, made no effort to close the gap and when asked, tried to claim that investment gains in the market would provide the needed funds. They bet our tax dollars on that strategy and lost. It seems unfair at best, and dishonest on face, to make this a "both sides" problem. When these benefits were contractually offered and accepted, in good faith, by the employees, it became a legally binding contract between the parties. The village's negotiators either believed they would meet their responsibilities or were not acting in good faith. They didn't understand the terms of the contract they signed? Of course they did. It can help but seem that the intent, across the board, in public pensions was to default on the government's obligations.

Rich Gray from Forest Park  

Posted: August 16th, 2014 5:32 PM

I do not feel the contracted medics are inferior to the FFs. They go through a difficult program to be a PM and I tip my hat to those PMs. The problem is that politicians think they do the same work as FFs when it comes to structural fire fighting and they don't. As I stated before, the FFs are certificated to get to the position they are at right now. PSI employees do not go through the same procedures. Your FFs are hand picked by your village board, the PMs are not. You get who ever is there.


Posted: August 16th, 2014 4:57 PM

It's certainly understandable that in an emergency, the last thing your thinking is who do you work for, especially when you dialed 911 in Forest Park, of course it's the Forest Park paramedic that shows up. But, even though they had a FPFD shirt on they get their paycheck from PSI. I assume you were happy with the quality of the paramedic services your wife received. This goes to show you all the scare tactics about contract emergency services is much ado about nothing We already have it.


Posted: August 16th, 2014 4:35 PM

Andrew, maybe I was too distracted due to my wife's collapsed lung, but I saw FP fire fighter uniforms on the two paramedic who came into our home. And she was transported in an FP fire dept. paramedic truck.


Posted: August 16th, 2014 4:06 PM

Just so we're clear Mr. Gray, are you saying that the paramedics that are contracted by the village of Forest Park through PSI are in some way inferior to the employee firefighters? In order to be a paramedic, you have to be licensed by the state. This requires extensive schooling and testing far in excess of what a firefighter goes through. Which is why many firemen aren't paramedics. Yes? And tax dollars pay for contract medics but taxpayers aren't on the hook for lifelong pensions. Yes?

Rich Gray from Forest Park  

Posted: August 16th, 2014 3:33 PM

Ezmerelda-the company that runs the ambulance, like Andrew stated, is a profit company and your tax dollars pay for them as well. The fire fighters that serve you are certificated and had to go through numerous test to be hired. The private company does not do that. Your angered that tax dollars help fund pensions, but it's ok to have numerous street fairs and other events that cost money. Where do you think your tax dollars should go too? Sorry, I think public safety trumps everything else.

Rich Gray from Forest Park  

Posted: August 16th, 2014 3:24 PM

Jerry-the tiny amount of SS I might get from when I worked as a kid at the park is going to amount to squat. Your right most companies offer 401Ks but the State doesn't. So teachers and first responders are suppose to just say "oh well" when a municipality decides not to fund the pensions? If your employer did that to you, would you be mad or just say "oh well" and find another option. It easy to sit back and shake the finger at the Union employees but when it happens to you it's different.


Posted: August 16th, 2014 2:58 PM

Forest Park has been contracting with PSI (Paramedic Services Inc.) for all Forest Park paramedic services for somewhere in the 20+ year range. If you had a service call for a paramedic in Forest Park in the last 20 years, the ambulance says Forest Park on the outside but it was a for profit paramedic from PSI that arrived at your door.


Posted: August 16th, 2014 2:37 PM

When I needed FP paramedics, Ezmeralda, they were FP Fire Dept. paramedics that came.

jerry from forest park  

Posted: August 16th, 2014 1:35 PM

Dwyer, thanks for the numbers

jerry from forest park  

Posted: August 16th, 2014 1:34 PM

Rich G., SS is suppose to make 1/3 of your retirement income, a pension and savings make up the rest. Most companies don't offer pensions any more, just 401K's . One can not live very well off SS. By the way the correct name is Retirement Supplement Income and the Fed used it for everything but what it was suppose to be used for.


Posted: August 16th, 2014 1:15 PM

I live in Forest Park. I had a medical emergency, dialed 911 and the Forest Park paramedics came and helped me. The Forest Park paramedics are private contract workers so I don't understand what you are trying to say. I called 911, for profit contract medics came, assisted me, all is well. And I didn't have to pay a ridiculous pension for them. Police & fire pay what equates to nothing into a pension and taxpayers are on the hook for a deal that should have never been struck. Sorry.

Rich Gray from Forest Park  

Posted: August 16th, 2014 12:10 PM

The labor unions entered an agreement with the municipalities in regards to these pensions. Every employee has pay into their pension funds with every one of their checks. The Villages have chosen not to fund the pensions 100%. Every town wants to blame the unions for their economic woes, when wasteful spending and a lack of having an economic plan for future expenditures. Also for the record, Unions fight hard for their pensions because they do not collect SS. FYI for those who collect SS.

Rich Gray from Forest Park  

Posted: August 16th, 2014 11:52 AM

Do you really think a private company has a vested interest in the town they work for. NO. They are a profit company and their employees are there for a check and do not give a crap about the town or the residents. So your theory is garbage. Also, Being a smart ass and saying that's what our jobs are so suck it up boo hoo doesn't give your nonsense any meaning. Just remember pal, when you pick up that phone to dial 911 for an emergency who's coming to help you.

Rich Gray from Forest Park  

Posted: August 16th, 2014 11:45 AM

Mr.Tool-I'm amazed by you ignorance and you lack knowledge of the pensions and privatization of public safety. Your comments that employees do not have a vested interest in the village they work for and they are only in it for the checks and benefits is an insult to all public safety employees. I have friends and family that live in the Village I work for and yes I do have a vested interest in my Village. I want them to do well and succeed.


Posted: August 16th, 2014 10:05 AM

Jerry, the past two years, SS COLA has risen just 1.5 and 1.7 pct. My 2.45 figure does not take into account the most recent hike in Jan. 2014. Since 2009 it has gone thusly: 2009- 5.8 pct?; 2010 - 0.0 pct;?2011 - 0.0 pct; 2012 - 3.6 pct;?2013 -- 1.7 pct - ?2014 - 1.5 pct. So in that shorter six year period, it averages to 2.1. But when you average the previous six years including 2004-2009, you get a 3.55 average rise. In any event, unlike pol/fire pensions, the 3 pct Soc. Sec is not automatic


Posted: August 15th, 2014 7:01 PM

Averaged over 20 years- for that mater, the past 26 years, it's 2.45 pct annually. Several years there was no increase- one year it was 5.8 pct.

jerry from forest park  

Posted: August 15th, 2014 6:31 PM

Dwyer, Does SS realy go up that much? It didn't seem like it with my last increase.


Posted: August 15th, 2014 5:16 PM

Understood, Jim. And agreed. Should have said 'eight years or so' rather than 'a few.' I'm not arguing that the system isn't out of whack. Rather that the average person doesn't risk what fire fighters and cops are expected to risk. The decisions regarding benefits and their structuring have, for far to long, been made solely on political grounds, rather than well thought out, fiscally responsible grounds.

Jim Palermo from La Grange  

Posted: August 15th, 2014 4:46 PM

@Dwyer The minutes of my village's pension funds reveal that after 2 to 2.5 yrs the retirement benefits received by a police officer or fire fighter exceeds his lifetime contributions. It will take quite a bit longer for social security benefits to hit that threshold because the benefits are smaller and the working life of a SS beneficiary is longer. At a 9.5% or 9.9% rate a PO or FF contribution isn't that much greater than a taxpayers ~6.2% SSI tax. Don't forget employer match on SSI.


Posted: August 15th, 2014 3:54 PM

Average Joe? Will you also receive Social Security? Because within just a few years, that adds up to more than you paid in over your working life time. And it goes up, on average over the past 20 years, around 2.45 percent. Granted, it starts later.

Average Joe from Forest Park  

Posted: August 15th, 2014 10:25 AM

The problem is government workers get benefits beyond what they paid for. For many of the millions of us in private sector jobs, the only retirement benefits we get is exactly what WE paid into it, eg 401K/503b, plus interest/dividends. I elect to pay 9% of my salary into my retirement account. The LIFETIME retirement benefits I will receive will be based solely on what I paid into MY account, not a percentage of my salary for the last years I work, no COLA, etc. I only get out, what I put in.

Jim Palermo from La Grange  

Posted: August 15th, 2014 10:18 AM

...neither legislators nor labor recognized that there was a real possibility that the promised benefits could be impossible to deliver...

Jim Palermo from La Grange  

Posted: August 15th, 2014 10:13 AM

@Observer I don't mean to insult anyone, and I appreciate that police officers and fire fighters have dutifully contributed to their plans. However, I don't believe a solution can reached without their participation. When the plans were designed and enhanced over the past 20-40 years, neither legislators nor labor recognized that there was a real possibility that the promised benefits could actually be delivered. And this has come to be. Everyone should regret this unfortunate reality.


Posted: August 15th, 2014 9:41 AM

@ Jim - Insulting to ask some retired cop or fireman who put in 30 years to belly up to the negotiating table and take less. You want to start fixing it fine. Retroactive "policy" changes to inked contracts is simply wrong. I agree something needs to be done, however, guys on the job now, nearing retirement or already retired....forget about it ;)

Jim Palermo from La Grange  

Posted: August 15th, 2014 9:29 AM

Mike, thank you for your kind words--

Jim Palermo from La Grange  

Posted: August 15th, 2014 9:28 AM

The state's soon to be enabled "revenue intercept" law may serve to increase contributions to the pension funds but it is a stretch to declare "problem solved". The sales taxes and other state revenues that will soon be devoted to achieving minimum pension contributions in most egregious municipalities will result in increased taxes or reduced services. It can't be just the taxpayer who suffers in pension reform; actives employees and retirees must be at the table too.


Posted: August 15th, 2014 9:04 AM

Let's also remember "Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work" Have a nice weekend ;)


Posted: August 15th, 2014 7:01 AM

The "problem" is already solved (see above article) A state law passed by the General Assembly in 2010 gives pension funds the power to intercept sales taxes, grants and other revenues owed to towns by the state "if required contributions aren't made," the BGA report says. That possible seizure of municipal sales taxes and other refunds (which will happen in "gradually increasing increments") will start in 2016. The problem will become manpower shortages as towns stop hiring (see N. Riverside)


Posted: August 15th, 2014 12:07 AM

More than COLA makes Illinois public sector pensions unsustainable. For police and fire outside Chicago, the employee contribution rate is: Police 9.91% of Salary. Fire: 9.455% of Salary. The accrual rate is 2.5%. As mentioned previously the maximum starting pension is 75% of final earnings. Years worked and age requirements already mentioned. Any funding shortfall is the responsibility of the taxpayer / employer. Not sure of normal employer contribution rate, without looking up? Very generous.


Posted: August 14th, 2014 9:38 PM

All the pension funds have unique benefit rules. For example, teachers outside Chicago (TRS) can retire with full benefits after 35 years of service at age 55. Full benefits is 75% of the average of the last 4 years salary. Years of service is different than years worked. Teachers can exchange 2 years unused sick leave for 2 years of service credit, so they can retire after 33 years worked. COLA 3% compounded. Early Retirement Option (ERO) allows retirement after 20 yrs of service.


Posted: August 14th, 2014 9:03 PM

To be clear, it goes like this: Police/fire personnel can retire after 20 years and begin to receive 50 precent of their last base salary as pension at age 55. That increases 2 1/2 pct every year up to 75 percent after 30 years of service. What needs to be axed is the AUTOMATIC 3 percent hike annually. That's what ,make these pensions unsustainable.


Posted: August 14th, 2014 8:58 PM

'Oh, PLEASE,' aptly named 'Tool(e),' your comments ARE totally ignorant and cheap shot. You denigrate people who serve and protect. They're not all perfect, but your universal dismissal of their motives is assinine. The problem with pensions is not the intentions of those who fight fires and police our streets. The problem is state government that creates regulatory standards without regard for their impact on local governments, and local governments that don't fully fund said pensions.


Posted: August 14th, 2014 8:57 PM

Was trying to address all pensions given the comment word limit. I know the state legislature determines police and fire benefits. In terms of village trustee, and I understand the myriad of issues, it would theoretically make sense to freeze salaries until pension are fully funded. Which board are you referring to that determines pension contributions? Police pension board? With that said Jim Palermo is the last politician I would be referring to as not having done enough to solve this problem

Jim Palermo from La Grange  

Posted: August 14th, 2014 8:42 PM

Mike, it is solely the state legislature that determines pension benefits. As village trustee, I have no say on the benefit side of the equation; our board determines the pension contributions.


Posted: August 14th, 2014 8:01 PM

Here's a really good question for your state and local politicians. If you know pensions are underfunded, why have you been hiking pension benefits? If you know pensions are underfunded, why have you been hiking salaries. First fully fund pensions, then hike pension benefits and salaries. That neglicence is akin to having a credit card debt, yet rather than paying down the debt, spend money on some other item. Salary hikes serve two purposes. Hike today's pay and tomorrow's pension.


Posted: August 14th, 2014 7:24 PM

Most people value the work done by police and fire as well as the rest of public sector workers. If you want to make someone angry though, indebt them without bothering to explain the scheme. Too many politicians loved pension and retiree healthcare benefit hikes. The press didn't publicize the hikes. Easy way for politicians to get votes from public sector workers. When is the last time you heard of a politician campaigning on hiking public sector pensions and retiree healthcare?


Posted: August 14th, 2014 7:16 PM

Police and Fire pension benefits are set by state politicians. State Senators and State Representatives pass a House or Senate bill which is signed into a Public Act by the Governor.

MR from Forest Park  

Posted: August 14th, 2014 7:04 PM

I would agree with others who have commented that privatizing public services is not an ideal solution. We need look no further than some of the bad contracts Chicago has entered into for evidence - parking meters, roads, and schools - losing money and quality long-term on privatization. I would also note N Riverside has proposed a NO BID contract to the company that gave 26% of campaign donations to the mayor's party. Not exactly rising above politics.

which is it?  

Posted: August 14th, 2014 6:59 PM

@Tim -- I agree the math looks bad, but as far as understanding the origins, isn't your statement that the politicians are looking for votes in conflict with your assertion that the police and fire fighters mostly choose not to live in the communities they serve.


Posted: August 14th, 2014 6:57 PM

Here's one thing to keep in mind about the public sector pensions in Illinois. The benefits are set by politicians. Benefits such as retirement age, # of years required to work, accrual rate, % of final average salary one receives for starting pension, early retirement options, partial or full employer pickup of employee contribution, etc. Those benefit levels were hiked by politicians. Most if not all employees are getting a far better pension than when they started their career.


Posted: August 14th, 2014 6:45 PM

@ Tim Toole..well I agree you on this, the police & firemen would probably have a better retirement if they had a 401K managed by a quality investment team as opposed to the traditional pensions which we now see as problematic. The lesson for public servants should be ..start that Roth IRA now! ;)

Tim Toole  

Posted: August 14th, 2014 6:40 PM

To call police/fire contributions a tithe is ludicrous. Where else can you contribute 10% of your salary (if even that much) work for 20 years, retire, collect a 55 or 60% pension for the rest of your life, you die before your spouse & your spouse then get's your same pension (with increases) for the rest of their life and have been paid back all that you contributed to your pension within 3 years of retiring? I'll tell you where from the government. And no place else. It's a taxpayer ripoff

Tim Toole  

Posted: August 14th, 2014 6:32 PM

No animosity. The only people getting thrown under a bus are taxpayers. It's the police/fire unions and the politicians that are running this scam. We privatize garbage pick up? Those garbage men get a pension from the companies they work for right? Why wouldn't contract police/fire get a pension from the company they work for? Oh that's right, they would. Problem is it just won't be as sweet a pension because it's not taxpayer funded and negotiated by idiot politicians looking for votes.


Posted: August 14th, 2014 6:15 PM

@ Tim Toole..why such animosity toward public servants? I must say, I agree with Dwyer..not a good idea throwing police & firemen under the bus. These people are dedicated & professional and signed contracts that should be honored. Having them tithe 10 percent to an uncertainty is unfair. I'm sure we can do better and find a way to fully fund these pensions. They perform a duty, earn their salary. The pension should be guaranteed not a question mark.

Tim Toole  

Posted: August 14th, 2014 5:50 PM

Oh please Dwyer. Where are the cheap shots? Police & fire are no more invested in the towns they serve beyond a paycheck. No paycheck and they would just watch the house burn down. So what if they run into a burning building or deal with scumbags. That's what they're paid to do. The police & fire unions have taken advantage of idiot politicians and created a taxpayer funded pension system that pays out to them everything they've personally paid in with by the 3rd year of retirement. Boo Hoo

Michelle W from FP  

Posted: August 14th, 2014 4:05 PM

Privatization of police and fire would be an expensive nightmare for citizens. No one benefits from a situation in which corporations enrich themselves from crime. We should roll that BACK, not make it easier to profit. Or let's just jump head first into Idiocracy.


Posted: August 14th, 2014 3:35 PM

Wow. Municipalities fall down on their obligations to pay agreed upon amounts to pension plans and the comments morph into cheap, ignorant slams against cops and fire fighters. @ Curious and Tim- run into a burning building sometime. Or dealing with some of the human garbage cops deal with. Public safety personnel are by and large professionals who care about the towns they serve. And they pay in 10 percent of their salary for their pensions, with no option to hold back, as municipalities can.


Posted: August 14th, 2014 2:21 PM

I agree that police & fire are now nothing but hired guns anyways so we should privatize them. They have nothing vested in the community except a paycheck, benefits, and pension!

Tim Toole from Tim Toole  

Posted: August 14th, 2014 1:40 PM

Current police & fire could care less about the towns they serve. They're there for a paycheck and sweet a** pensions. They will pay almost nothing into and get hundreds of thousands of dollars out of. It has been political prostitution between elected's and unions that created this pension mess. Why? Votes. Forest Park is no different. Fund your mortgage payment at 56-60% and see what your bank does. Thats not considered healthy anymore than funding a pension system at 50-60%. Get a clue FP.

Tim Toole  

Posted: August 14th, 2014 1:31 PM

What can be done? Do what North Riverside is doing. Contract police & fire services out to private companies. And before we hear the old standard "Hired guns won't care about the community like our current police & firemen do", thats a bunch of bull. At one time, police & fire personnel had residency requirements. Their unions fought that and won so now almost no police/fire have to live in the city they work in. And given the choice most of them chose not. That makes them hired guns.


Posted: August 14th, 2014 10:37 AM

@ Mark Glennon, Thank you for that info. In your opinion, what action can these communities take now and what do you see as viable solutions to this crisis?


Posted: August 14th, 2014 10:29 AM

The dash in the BGA article was translated to a ?" so here's a more readable version. Here's what the BGA article said regarding the 80%. "The BGA reviewed the finances of each system, by analyzing documents, and contacting every pension agency or municipality, and found 204, or 94 percent, were below the 80 percent threshold."


Posted: August 14th, 2014 10:24 AM

Here's what the BGA article said regarding the 80%. "The BGA reviewed the finances of each system ?" by analyzing documents, and contacting every pension agency or municipality ?" and found 204, or 94 percent, were below the 80 percent threshold."


Posted: August 14th, 2014 10:12 AM

This is the worst article I've ever seen written about pensions. The ideal funding is 100%. 80% is supposedly widely considered acceptable. But 80% means you are underfunded 20%, that's 1/5th. That's just one pension fund. Take all the public sector pension funds any individual taxpayers is responsible for, and you have an enormous problem. We are in crisis mode regarding public sector pensions in Illinois. Crisis zone. Not healthy zone.

Sharon Daly from Forest Park, Illinois  

Posted: August 14th, 2014 6:55 AM

Thanks, Mark, for your very readable explanation. Our electeds probably appreciate your clarity, too.

Mark Glennon from Wilmette  

Posted: August 14th, 2014 1:13 AM

Sorry to be blunt, but this article is a catalog of omissions, errors and misunderstanding, as explained here: http://wp.me/p2Oseh-4bl

Jim Palermo from La Grange  

Posted: August 13th, 2014 8:56 AM

I don't know when I've seen a more misleading headline. Forest Park's police and fire pension funds aren't in the 'healthy zone' they are in terrible condition. Each have liabilities due retirees, widows and disabled persons exceeding plan assets; benefits paid that exceed the employer and employees contributions; and in the aggregate there are more persons receiving benefits than are working. It is fine to report facts, but the author has insufficient topic knowledge to provide analysis.


Posted: August 12th, 2014 2:39 PM

Saying Forest Park is 'in the healthy zone' just because it's pension funding isn't are dire as some other municipalities is akin to saying a hospitalized patient is healthy because he's been moved out of the ICU. The patient is still sick and and Forest Park is still well below the level considered fiscally healthy. That's according to experts, not me.

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