Pension Laws Cost Suburb

Article excerpt

Byline: John Patterson Senior State Government Editor jpatterson@dailyherald.com

SPRINGFIELD -- A trio of pension laws approved by state lawmakers to enhance local police and firefighter benefits cost Arlington Heights taxpayers more than $2.4 million over the past five years, according to a state report.

The laws made it possible for police and firefighters to reach maximum pensions of 75 percent of their pay at 30 years rather than 35 years of service. They also provided for a surviving spouse to get the full pay if the person dies in the line of duty. Other provisions increased benefits for surviving children and those who leave employment because of job-related disability.

The Illinois Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability examined the costs of those added benefits to select local governments, including Arlington Heights'. The commission, an economic agency of the Illinois General Assembly, pegged the cost to the village alone at $2,418,070.

Local officials said this is exactly the kind of unfunded mandate from the state they've been fighting.

"The village of Arlington Heights greatly values the service of its police, fire and paramedic personnel," said Village Manager Bill Dixon. "What this issue is about from the standpoint of

the municipalities is state mandates, where the state, through legislative action, sets standards and benchmarks when it comes to pension levels and the funding of pension levels and yet the impact falls on the municipalities and local taxpayers to fulfill those mandates. …