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District 202 Reps Talk Pensions, School Finance with Gov. Pat Quinn

Board president Roger Bonuchi and Superintendent John Harper joined officials from other school districts in expressing concerns about pension plans, proposed state funding changes.

Representatives from were part of a sit-down with Gov. Pat Quinn late last month to discuss pension reform and the future of state school funding.

But officials don’t expect the discussion to bring a reprieve from possible general state aid (GSA) cuts or plans to shift the teachers’ pension burden to local school districts, according to District 202 Board of Education President Roger Bonuchi.

Bonuchi said he and Superintendent John Harper were part of a contingent comprised of 12 officials from five Illinois school districts.

Pension reform was a hot topic at the July 23 meeting, Bonuchi said, especially since Quinn has called all state lawmakers back to Springfield later this month for a special session to tackle the issue.

In May, pension reform talks came to a halt after Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) agreed to drop a controversial proposal to shift the cost of teacher pensions from the state onto local school districts, universities and community colleges.

But with continued state budget woes, Quinn told school officials that it could come down to one of two options for local school districts: Have the pension burden phased in over a period of years, or accept a reduction in the rate at which funding is doled out to school districts.

Currently, general state aid is paid out to local school districts at a rate of 95 percent, but that could drop to 89 percent, Bonuchi said.

“If we keep state aid at 95 percent proration, we will have to shift the pension costs,” Bonuchi said. “[Quinn] said it will be less painful for us to accept responsibility for the state’s portion of the pension over a period of 10, 12 [or] 15 years, and wouldn’t we rather do that than take the 89 percent proration.”

In total, Bonuchi estimated it could cost the district $11 to $12 million to take on the burden of teachers’ pensions. Dropping from 95 to 89 percent proration would cost about $5 million, he said.

Either way, it will mean another financial blow to District 202, which is projecting an $8.1 million deficit for the 2012-13 school year. Bonuchi added that the proposed budget was crafted based on the assumption that the rate will drop to 89 percent.

Currently, the board of education is debating how to use an estimated $7.5 million surplus from the 2011-12 school year.

“We want to try to avoid cutting jobs,” Bonuchi said.

Since 2009, District 202 has cut about 345 full-time equivalent jobs to save $42 million.

Bonuchi said the July 23 meeting with Quinn was arranged by State Rep. Tom Cross, R-Oswego, to allow officials to explain to the governor the financial impact the pension and GSA changes will have on local districts.

“He was certainly cordial and personable with us,” Bonuchi said of Quinn, but noted the governor did not have much of a response to suggestions from the group on ways to change the pension system.

“I think he understands that we’re in pain right now, and he told us [the state is] in pain,” Bonuchi said. “It was a little bit of a tug of war — whose balance sheet is going to look better at the end of the day.”

District 202's proposed budget will be placed on display Aug. 10. A public hearing is set for Sept. 10, and the board plans to vote on the budget Sept. 24.

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Sheila Raddatz August 06, 2012 at 05:18 PM
THANK YOU to the Bonuchi family for representing our district in a time of need !!!
silentrippy August 06, 2012 at 05:28 PM
Shelia why are you thanking them? Bonuchi supported a 2.5% pay raise for administrators this year. He did not vote for it but openly supported it. $322,000 down the drain. BIg property tax breaks to the new apartment complex on 127th and for the Diageo expansion directly from the 202 school district. This board is a long way from getting any thank you from me. They should all be subjected to financial discipline. They're still 8 million in the hole. How could you even say thank you?
Moe August 06, 2012 at 05:52 PM
@Silent, What would you have done differently? Please share, this should be interesting.
Jerry August 06, 2012 at 08:00 PM
How about if the pension "burden" is put on the teachers themselves like most workers who have to plan and save for their own retirement?
Nick Beam August 06, 2012 at 08:13 PM
Teachers put a large amount of their own money into the pension system. In fact they have had to increase the amount that they have had to put in several times. Plus they don't get SS, like "most workers".
Tim August 06, 2012 at 08:50 PM
Nick, D202 teachers put in a grand total of $0. The employee contribution is paid by the Board of Education as a 'benefit' negotiated in their labor agreement. This doesn't show up unless you look at both the labor contract, and the line item expenditures in the budget. But, It is right there in black and white in the contract; Pg 22 - Section 11.14 "The board shall contribute to the teachers Retirement Systems of Illinois[the pension fund], on behalf of each teacher, the full teacher contribution due the Teachers Retirement System." http://www.psd202.org/Departments/BO/APT_Contract.pdf (the full contract agreement between D202 and the union) Almost two-thrids of districts in IL do this, and D202 is one of them. D308 in Oswego is another. They do NOT pay their own way, as they like to claim. They in fact have specifically negotiated for YOU to pay their own way instead.
Nick Beam August 06, 2012 at 08:56 PM
Where did you get the number that "2/3" of districts in Illinois do this? The last district I lived in (Downers Grove) the teachers had about 15-20% of their check taken out for TRS, which would be comparable to SS.
Tim August 06, 2012 at 09:22 PM
Nick, D202 does this. D308 does this. Downers Grove, does not. A nice little sample where two-thirds of the districts from our sample size pay the pensions for the teachers. The full breakdown of all the districts is here; http://www.isbe.net/research/pdfs/teacher_salary_11-12.pdf You can look at any district you want, and see what amount of the pension payments are picked up by the board, and what ones are actually being paid out of salary.
I_FundMyPension August 06, 2012 at 09:49 PM
I am a D202 teacher and according to a recent bi-weekly pay stub, I put $195 into TRS as an "employee deduction", which is not optional and is approximately 10% of gross salary. Employer paid benefits into TRS for the same period is $12 or 1/2 of 1% of my gross salary. I read the contract language, and agree with Tim's statement in theory, but there is obviously something missing here...the language in the contract is "qualified" saying the teacher picks up shortages, etc, but can't imagine it would lead to such a drastic difference.
MARK APGAR August 06, 2012 at 10:27 PM
THE TAXPAYERS ARE THE MAIN ONES PAYING NO MATTER HOW YOU LOOK AT IT AND CONSIDER THEY GET JUST ABOUT EVERY HOLIDAY OFF AND PAID FOR PLUS THE EASTER BREAK , SUMMER OFF , THANKSGIVING AND CHRISTMAS BREAKS AND MANY OF THESE TEACHERS ARE COLLECTING MORE THEN ONE PENSION AS THEY MOVE UP THE LADDER SO TO SPEAK ,,,THEN YOU HAVE THESE SCHOOL BOARD OFFICIALS COLLECTING OUTRAGEOUS SALARIES PLUS A PENSION AT THE SAME TIME ...JUST LIKE MANY OF THESE OTHER PUBLIC WORKERS INCLUDING POLICE ,FIREMAN AND OF COARSE THE POLITICIANS THEY AINT GOING TO PASS NO REFORM ...THE TAXPAYERS ARE A CASH COW
Tina August 07, 2012 at 01:31 AM
Mark,please stop shouting. I would like to know what teachers are receiving more than one pension "as they climb up the ladder". Do you realize the public workers (fire,police and teachers) are also "taxpayers"? They don't just sit around and collect tax payers money. They work,they contribute to their own retirement and they pay taxes.
Nick Beam August 07, 2012 at 03:57 PM
Thanks for clarifying. The number of $0 didn't seem right.
Nick Beam August 07, 2012 at 03:59 PM
Also, teacher cannot collect more than one pension unless they go from private to public, or from IMRF to TRS. Administrators are usually the ones collecting multiple pensions. As for the holidays, I believe when contracts are negotiated they are based off of the number of days that teachers work, so they technically do not get paid for those days. I wasn't aware school board members collected any salary or pension for their position. What is their salary?
Tim August 07, 2012 at 05:14 PM
The number $0 is right. The amount listed on your paycheck is what is being contributed on your behalf by the school board, it is not coming out of your salary. This is the 9.4% that the board agreed to pay in for you, ABOVE your regular salary, not out of it.
Ernie Knight August 07, 2012 at 06:45 PM
Tim, The school board can't violate the contract. In a future contract, if the contribution is more or completely from the teachers, you expect that will not result in an almost automatic pay raise to cover the contribution? It really doesn't matter whose alleged share it comes out of. It's coming from the same place. They are not part of Social Security. Are they not entiltled to the pension under which they were hired? Line level employees are not the problem. Abuse and corruption of the systems by politicians are the problem.
Tim August 07, 2012 at 09:42 PM
Who said anything about violating the contract? The Board of Education better be paying attention that the residents have finally noticed this little 'gift' in the labor contract, and negotiate accordingly. If they strike, void the contract, and hire a new batch of teachers. There are PLENTY of teachers looking for work that would gladly take the job. Right now, they are not entitled to anything, as they are not paying into their pension. When they pay into it out of their own salary, then they can claim they 'paid their fair share'. I didn't see the teachers union complaining when they were lobbying downstate to divert the pension funding into local district funding.... well, until they found a way to use that to paint the state in a bad way. What private company pays you ABOVE your salary to pay for your Social Security? All this does, is bring the public sector back in line with the private sector, and ensure a sustainable funding model going forward.
Ernie Knight August 08, 2012 at 02:03 PM
Ron, that's not the way collective bargaining works. You may wish to punish the teachers, but the arbitrator won't. Tim, It's still not relevant whose alleged share the money comes from, it ALL come from the school district and taxpayers. You are fighting for an illusion.
Alex August 08, 2012 at 04:43 PM
District 202 pays 9.4 percent into their pensions. What Tim fails to address is that the 9.4 is included in the salary. It’s called total compensation. Starting pay this year for teachers in Plainfield is $40,334. This includes the board added 9.4, it’s NOT added to this so the 9.4 comes out of the teachers’ check. In comparison Downers Grove Dist’s #58 starting pay is $42,256 without the board added 9.4% but it still comes out of their check. The contract language is different but the total compensation is relatively close. Plainfield teachers are not getting a free ride on their pensions. Pension benefits are not negotiated in a vacuum.
John Tips August 29, 2012 at 09:27 PM
The entire School Board, should be chastised for not having the foresight to STOP their reckless SPENDING and live within their means as we taxpayers do on a daily basis! We pay an extraordinary amount of money for the Taj Mahals they have erected, and the overhead required to man them! Does anyone recall when our good Ole boy John Harper went to sunny Mexico City to secure a Mexican national - to teach Bi-lingual education here in our schools? We were told that in the whole state of Illinois, and the entire Country of the United States that district 202 could not find ONE individual to teach bi-lingual education here! We were told that they (John Harper) and his entourage had to go to Mexico to find us teachers! It would have been cheaper if we had just given him another bonus as we did before since he is indispensable to our district! Oh Yes - we live in District 202, which remains a Good Ole Boy politically connected place to be! They should spend more of OUR money on teaching our children then on their vacations, overpriced buildings, district cars and exuberant administrative personnel!

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