News Local/State

Illinois Mayors Call for Public Safety Pension Reform

Mayors from Danville & other cities says police & fire pensions are a financial burden for cities.

A group of Illinois mayors is calling on lawmakers to overhaul the pension system for municipal police and fire employees.

The mayors said at a Chicago news conference Monday that rising police and fire pension bills are “choking local government budgets”, and could force some cities to raise property taxes or cut services.

Danville Mayor Scott Eisenhauer attended the news conference. He says that even as cities’ share of the police and fire pension bill goes down, the amount of money they have to pay has gone up ---- by 78% over the last decade for Danville.

 “So our fear is, unless we get a real grip on reform, unless we roll back some of these pension sweeteners that have been applied over the course of the last ten years, we’re going to continue putting more and more money into the problem, but seeing fewer and fewer results at the end of the day”, said Eisenhauer.

A separate measure reforming state employee pensions is set to take effect in Illinois June first, but faces several court challenges, on grounds that some changes violate the Illinois constitution.

Urbana Mayor Laurel Prussing, who did not attend Monday’s news conference, says if lawmakers can’t lessen the cost of police and fire pensions for cities, they could at least stop adding to it by continued benefit improvements.

“They have a tendency to keep making things better and better, because they’re not faced with paying the bills”, said Prussing.

Prussing says she wouldn’t support a pension reform bill modeled after the one recently sent to the governor for Chicago city employee pensions, because it assumes a hike in city property taxes.

Among the suggestions by mayors at Monday’s news conference for easing pensions costs were raising the retirement age and lowering annual cost-of-living adjustments.  But it's unclear if state lawmakers will take up the issue of police and fire pensions any time soon. No legislation has been drafted and negotiations are just getting started.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press