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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.

READ MORE ON THIS STORY FROM PLAINFIELD PATCH:

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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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