Taxpayers foot hefty retirements for Rock Island County pensioners
Rock Island County’s highest-paid government retirees, none of whom are educators, administrators or first responders, all receive more than six figures in annual pensions, according to a report recently issued by the Illinois Policy Institute (IPI).
Nine out of the top 20 Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund (IMRF) beneficiaries receive more income annually than any one of them ever remitted toward retirement over their whole lives.
“Eleven have collected over $1 million over the course of their retirements,” the report said.
In fact, the most highly compensated retiree received $152,390 per year, with total accumulated benefits listed at more than $1.7 million. Yet, that individual contributed only $159,794 total to his retirement fund over the course of a two-decade span.
Of the top highest-paid pensioners, the least well-compensated receives $83,144 every year — also having paid in only slightly more than that amount ($86,365) during his 35 years of service.
“Residents on the Illinois side of the Quad Cities divide are on the hook for retirement benefits most could only dream of, while paying high property tax bills that are all too real,” IPI’s Austin Berg said.
Recipients of pension benefits listed span occupations from airport authorities to library systems, but most held city and county government positions.
These and other dedicated careerists are not deliberately dipping into taxpayer money and are not personally accountable for an assured 3-percent increase in their benefits annually for life. Nor is the IMRF to be faulted on its own," IPI noted.
“But these benefits do illustrate a divide between local taxpayer incomes and pension promises,” the report stated, pointing out the need to resolve the inequity.
Flaws in the machine come to light knowing that taxpayers who are not necessarily government workers themselves pay more for IMRF benefits than the actual beneficiaries, IPI said.
Statistics gathered by the Illinois Department of Insurance on the local jurisdictions of Moline and Rock Island reveal that even though an extra $3.3 million in taxpayer dollars was allotted to pension funds annually over the course of one decade, those accounts’ assets shrank over 10 years’ time.
Moline’s police and fire pensions alone more than doubled between 2006 and 2016, and yet the books failed to reflect the influx, instead veering in the other direction, IPI said.
The institute suggests the retirement system be given an overhaul.
“In order to protect core services, retirees and property taxpayers, state lawmakers must reduce the cost of pensions,” IPI said. “In the short term, that means instituting 401(k)-style retirement plans for new workers. In the long term, it means amending the Illinois Constitution to allow for changes to future, unearned retirement benefits for current government workers.”