Pension reform is all the rage in Springfield as lawmakers try to cut a budget billions in the red, but how to achieve that reform is causing a divide. A group of Republican lawmakers has come out against a proposal to make local school districts pay more for employee pensions – which could initially costs some larger districts millions of dollars a year. State Rep. Ed Sullivan (R-Mundelein) says the districts would have to hike property taxes, fire teachers, or both.
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“A billion dollars, and again in some instances it could be more, onto local school boards offers a recipe for chaos and ridiculous instability to school boards and of course, and maybe even more importantly, chaos to the taxpayers,” he says. “How are they going to levy for this?” asks State Rep. Paul Evans (R-O’Fallon). “We need to have a thorough, thought-out plan and system to address this. Here is another short-term, short-sighted effort to pass the buck and avoid our obligations.”
Some school districts are prohibited under the Property Tax Extension Limitation Law (PTELL) from levying more than an additional 5 percent from property taxes every year, or levying more than what’s indicated by the rate of inflation – whichever is less. The proposal isn’t yet in bill form, and is merely a proposal that could be part of a larger pension reform package. House Minority leader Tom Cross (R-Oswego) introduced a measure last year that would, in part, curtail benefits for current employees and retirees – which some decry as unconstitutional.