Aldermen on Evanston’s Human Services Committee Monday asked the city’s law department to determine whether they could qualify for pensions from the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund.

Aldermen on Evanston’s Human Services Committee Monday asked the city’s law department to determine whether they could qualify for pensions from the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund.

The decision was prompted by a request from Township Assessor Bonnie Wilson that the City Council adopt a resolution that would allow her to qualify for an IMRF pension.

The resolution requires the local governing body to certify that the official to receive the pension works a minimum of 600 or 1,000 hours per year and that the governing body sets the number of hours the official is required to work.

Wilson is paid $8,000 a year for the part-time assessor’s position and has claimed in her request for pension program participation that she works a minimum of 800 hours a year on the job.

But as an elected official, she sets her own schedule and it does not appear that the aldermen, acting as township trustees, have previously set any requirements for the number of hours a township assessor would be expected to work.

Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, said, “This is my sixth year [on the council] and I have never heard anything about any pension benefits. Why haven’t we had that if it’s a possibility?”

Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, said, “I think we need something in writing on this. We need a report on it.” The issue had come to the committee as a discussion item with no supporting documentation.

Former Township Assessor Sharon Eckersall, who lost a bitter election battle with Wilson two years ago, appeared at the meeting to support her successor’s pension request, in hopes it would also affect her.

“It would be wonderful if something can be done” about pension benefits for the assessor, Eckersall said, “but for 11 years I tried and got nowhere because my salary was too low. And the mayor and aldermen were turned down as well.”

Municipal employees now must have 10 years of service to qualify for a pension, up from 8 years as a result of a legislative change last year.

But employees can make retroactive payments to cover at least 50 months of their eligibility period.

The city has to match employee contributions to the IMRF pension program. Currently employees pay 4.5 percent of their salary, the city pays 9.36 percent.

High pension costs for city workers have been a frequent issue of concern to the aldermen as they’ve tried to balance recent city budgets.

And city officials have lobbied in Springfield to persuade the legislature to reduce the burden of pension programs on municipalities.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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18 Comments

  1. Time to end the one-party tyranny in Evanston

    OMG!

    Last year, the City Council raised city and gas taxes and utilities rates. Part of the tax hike revolved around the growing pension debt. Now the very same people who have the power to reach into our pockets to pay for this pension crisis want to get a PENSION THEMSELVES!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Let's not forget that It was only two years ago in a severe and prolonged Recession did the Evanston City Council find it in their hearts to give themselves a 20 percent pay raise.

    Now Bonnie Wilson, Evanston Township Assessor, local Realtor and board member of the Evanston Democrat party, thinks she deserves a pension even though she works part-time and sets her own hours?

    The Evanston Township Assessor's office is a duplicative service and should have been on the cutting block as the City Council last year looked for ways to cut the budget. But no, the City Council last year decided in all of its infinite wisdom to expand the Township Assessor's budget by 80 percent because a Democrat finally gained control of the seat! Keep in mind, Cook County provides the same service and better.

    Delores Holmes, Alderwoman of the Fifth District, should be ashamed. Folks in her district are devastated by this economy as their home values plummet while taxes skyrocket. The vacancy rate is at a record high as foreclosures are the norm. If it weren't for the $18 million federal stimulus grant, Holmes' district would be doomed.

    So while many Evanstonians struggle to survive this economic crisis, the City Council and Township Assessor (all Democrats) want to get in on the jackpot pensions that is the primary reason cities, counties and Illinois are going broke due to the unsustainable pension system.

    Folks, this is a classic display of arrogance by our city leaders. It's an atrocity of the umpteenth degree.

    I can't think of a better reason for a coalition of conservatives or independents to form and begin planning a run for the Evanston City Council next year and end the tyranny of the one-party rule in this town.

  2. I’m pretty sure this is crazy

    We need a moratorium on any new pensions. They are bankrupting us.  

    I'm in favor of a generous matching 401k or 403b type plan for city employees that we pay as we go.  And it should start immediately for all new hires.  That's what everyone in the non-profit world is having to do right now.  Cities can do it and employees (not volunteers or elected officials) should want it because it puts them in control of their own money.  

    Have we really not learned the lesson of how pensions put our municipal budget at risk?  

  3. Couldn’t agree more

    I couldn't agree with you more, Al. I've had enough of this town. I'm voting with my feet. I'm moving out of Evanston and out of Crook County. Among the many problems with Evanston there are just too many closed-minded liberals, too many scum bags, too many taxes and the schools just aren't up to par. Not to mention that I don't feel safe here. It's a bad place to raise a family.

    Good luck fighting the good fight, Al. Sooner or later I imagine you'll just have to leave, though.

  4. I am appalled!

    The nerve of all of those who spoke out in favor receiving pensions.  The majority of those people have other careers and they just want to dip in the pockets because they can! Outrageous! We cannot fund the pensions we have in place and they want their hand in the cookie jar too.  I say get rid of all of them at the next election.  Evanston alderman and township assessor (not sure we need one) does not require a full-time commitment how dare you think that taxpayers should also foot a pension bill for you. 

  5. Nooooooooooooooooooooooooo!

    No pension for the part-time assessor. No pensions for the aldermen. No no no no no! They took the jobs knowing there was no pension, they don't have any right to complain now. The city can't afford NEW pension obligations and shame on any elected official who thinks they need extra benefits right now.

  6. Pensions

    Amen (if we're still allowed to say that!) to all of the above comments.

    Just remember the words of the philosopher George Santayana: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

  7. Vote them out!

    Any alderman who is trying to get a pension should be voted out.  They are looking out for themselves and not for Evanston.  They have first hand knowledge of the mess that the pensions have put Evanston in and now they want a pension of their own. Give me a break.   Elected officials need to put Evanston first, not their own personal bank accounts.

  8. Toss their sorry butts out.

    It's a PART-TIME job. This dump is becoming more and more like Chicago with Aldermen-for-life, Mayor-for-life, no-opposition to the slack-jaw yokels running and ruining what was once a great place to live.

    Its beginning to seem that the only way to get these clowns out of office is to promote them to the Circuit Court (although I think that he IS qualified for that job and deserved it) or find some other 'connected challenger' who has slightly fewer skeletons in the closet.

    Next thing ya know they'll be looking for unemployment benefits too…  Oh wait, there might be precedent for that if Toddy-boy gets his hearing in front of some judge his daddy or he got appointed. But that's another story.

    Used to be thieves went to jail, Now they get elected to city council and steal from the whole city instead of really having to work at it and rob the people one at a time.

    Wish I could get out of here, but between rising fees, rising taxes, and everything else I can't afford the cardboard box luggage anymore.

  9. Is this a joke?

    Who are the Alderman on Evanston's Human Service's Committee?

    Who proposed this issue?

    Who approved the motion to move this issue forward?

    1. Of Course They Do !

      Now that Todd Stroger has created a whole new idea for politicians, it did not take long for the Evanston Democrats to come up with a similar idea.  Isn't being able to 'rule' a whole city, stop business and add to their resume enough ?

      Reminds me of another famous saying "…absolute power corrupts absolutely."

  10. April Fools?

    Let's remember those names so we can vote them out: Wilson, Holmes, and Fiske. 

    Eckersall, though not in office now, may turn up again, so let's remember her too.

    Though Fiske only said "we need a report," her response should have been a decisive "No!"

     

     

    1. Pensions? In this economy? Is this their career?

      Apparently your ELECTED folks have not heard of the Wisconsin mess.  Even better, they should google "Bell California" and also "Vernon, California"  

      They should publish their salaries, actually.  Gov't. elected jobs are not supposed to be FOR LIFE.  They should be doing this for a while and not full time.  

      To even whisper more "spending" on bloated political salaries is not good p.r. — certainly not good for those who want another crack at the job come voting time.

      Quite honestly, that info stunned me.

  11. Convenient!

    I wish I could give myself an improved pension and benefits package, too!  Too bad I'm not in public sector.

  12. Sure

    The alderman should get a pension, right after they fully fund the police and fire pension funds they have purposefully ignored for the past few decades.  After that, if they can provide the equivalent of 30 years of service at a level of 40 hours per week, perhaps someone (else) will listen.  They have a lot of nerve.

  13. Why am I not surprised the usual supsect neocons are opposed

    These public servants have an absolute, inalienable right to basic human necessities, including, but not limited to, a comfortable retirement in exchange for their service. You closed minded neocons disgust me. Threats to leave Evanston? Please do. This town will be better without you. We can just raise taxes on the rich freeloaders who are laughing all the way to the bank with their Bush tax cuts.

  14. Term limits for Evanston elected officials!

    If council members vote themselves a pension we need to place on the ballot a term limit for them of eight years, ( need ten for a pension) . 

    Less than a year ago staff was trying to put an ordinance through to give staff who had worked out of state pension credits it quietly got defeated. 

    It appears to me this needs to be stopped.

    Wally loves PR – the council giving them selves pensions at this time should be enough negative PR to make Evanston the laughing stock of late night TV  and the county- maybe even a bigger joke than the lecture at NU.

  15. Tone Deaf

    I also find it ironic that the request came from the Evanston Township Assessor.  Can someone please  explain to me why the township exists today? Perhaps it makes sense to eliminate the township and redeploy the $100,000+ township budget toward more effective programs? Thank you Bill Smith for bringing this to our attention.

  16. Pensions

    "Angry liberal" seems to believe that anyone who would dare oppose an aldermanic and assessor pension is somehow a "neocon".  I could not disagree more.  I am a "happy liberal" who has worked in politics and policy my whole adult life and I am absolutely appalled that these aldermen would even consider bringing such a silly notion right now. It's a slap in the face to the firefighters and police officers of our city who have worked full time for our city for decades and who are facing the reality of underfunded pensions.  Frankly, these people ran for this part time job knowing full well it is not accompanied with a pension.  I'm sorry–have any of them even bothered to take a look around at their neighboring counties, cities, states and the rest of the country to see what is going on with municipal pension funds?  I'm embarrassed that they would even bring it up.  

    Moreover, isn't it about time we eliminate the money-sucking farse that is the "township" notion?  And she has the audacity to ask for a pension? Come on, Evanston. We can do better than this. 

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