Four stories in the June 24 Wednesday Journal highlighted the dysfunctional way that public funds are raised and disbursed, both locally and statewide. In a front-page editorial, Dan Haley’s column and a news story, a clear call was made for the Illinois Legislature to raise state taxes. More revenue at the state level would ward off threatened cuts in social services at the local level.

Another article, however, indirectly highlighted part of the reason the state is in such a fiscal bind. Fifty teachers in districts 97 and 200 will receive pay raises totaling 20 percent, spread over several years, prior to their retirements in 2010. [Early retirement closing, for teachers, news, June 24] The story presents this as a savings for local property tax payers because the veteran teachers will be replaced by new teachers at much lower starting salaries. But the retiring teachers will now receive much higher pensions because of the sharp increase in their salaries in their last years of working. So, whatever savings local property tax payers will see in the short run will be more than offset by increased state spending on pensions over the next few decades.

I don’t begrudge the teachers their ability to get as much money as they can get – that’s human nature. However, their recent pay increases have been funded by taxpayers in the private sector whose raises were more likely 1 to 2 percent over the last three years – if they got a pay raise at all. And now these same taxpayers – whose 401(k)s have been decimated over the past year – will be paying for richer retirement plans for these teachers for a long time.

I’m sure the representatives of the Oak Park Regional Housing Center, Hephzibah, the Children’s Clinic and other local agencies wish the state’s (and taxpayers’) largesse toward teachers and other beneficiaries of public pension funds extended to other social services.

Paul Clark
Oak Park

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