I am writing to you to address the issue of public safety pension reform in the upcoming veto session. Please immediately consider these pension reforms, as they are causing municipalities serious budget problems. From one elected official to another, I need your help in dealing with our fiscal pension problem.
Municipal governments, including the Village of River Forest, can no longer keep up with the funding demands required to offset the rising pension debt. If the Illinois General Assembly fails to act with urgency to provide cost relief to municipal governments, these funds will move further down the road of financial insolvency. Once again, municipal governments and their taxpayers cannot reasonably be expected to keep up with the growing costs needed to keep these pension funds financially viable.
So what is the solution?
We need to make specific changes to future employees hired after Jan. 1, 2011. Such as, increase the normal retirement age to 60; provide the maximum pension after 35 years of service; set a pensionable salary cap; set the maximum pension at 72 percent of final salary; and calculate pensions using an average final salary based upon the highest eight consecutive years out of the last 10 years of service. Even with these changes, our public safety pension benefits are far greater than the private sector's, so therefore is this change really that difficult?
I am aware that reducing benefits for newly hired public safety employees is not politically popular, but one important point should be considered. If the problem of unsustainable pension costs is not addressed immediately, then these increasing costs will place demands on local budgets that we cannot meet while still providing vital services to our community.
The Village of River Forest makes a good-faith contribution to fund its public safety pensions. The taxpayers of River Forest need relief, both immediate and long term, from the burden that the present public safety pension system places on River Forest. I am confident that reforms can provide relief to the Village of River Forest without unduly harming the employees and pensioners for whom these programs exist.
I urge the General Assembly to take immediate action to rescue the suburban municipal police and firefighter pension systems by approving pension reform during your veto session.
Catherine Adduci is a River Forest resident and village trustee.