September 8th, 2020
Quincy Herald-Whig | Leader of taxpayer group lashes out at high government pensions in Illinois
Jim Tobin, the TUA’s president, held a news conference where he called for reforms to the state’s pension system, which reportedly is underfunded by an estimated $85 billion.
Tobin said his watchdog organization, formed in 1976, started releasing government pension information six years ago “to let taxpayers know how much these people are being paid.”
This marked the first time he has release information specifically about Quincy and Adams County pensioners.
“Taxpayers have no … idea at all that these people are becoming pension millionaires, and they need to know who they are, how much they’re getting and how little they have contributed to their own pension benefits,” he said.
Tobin singled out several individuals who retired from the Quincy School District, the Adams County government or the city of Quincy who rank highest among their peers in the pensions they are paid.
For example, Tobin pointed to Nick Schildt, a former assistant superintendent of the Quincy School District. According to Tobin, Schildt’s current pension is $194,663 per year. That’s up from his original pension of $153,532. Tobin said Schildt is on pace to earn a lifetime pension payout of $6.9 million based on an average life expectancy of 85 years.
Tobin said the $163,010 Schildt paid into the pension system during his working career represents just 2.4 percent of the total estimated payout.
Schildt’s pension is higher than the pensions being paid to four former superintendents — Joe Bocke, $158,184; Thomas Leahy, $148,462; Myrl Shireman, $127,342; and George Meyer, $116,818.
One other former school district employee earning a pension above $100,000 is Carol Mickle, a former assistant superintendent, who receives $123,148, according to Tobin.
Tobin said Richard Klusmeyer, former county engineer for Adams County, is leading the list of Adams County government retirees by receiving an annual pension of $80,598. Klusmeyer is on course to receive a total payout of more than $2 million, according to Tobin.
Topping the list of retired Quincy municipal government employees is Donald Kulek, a former worker in the city’s engineering department. His pension is $60,465, and he is on pace to receive a lifetime payout of $2.55 million, Tobin said.
Tobin was invited to Quincy by Roger Davis, an independent candidate for mayor of Quincy. Davis attended Tuesday’s press conference at the Days Inn, saying excessive pension costs are “a heavy issue that affects us all. We have to get this under control.”
Tobin said more than 6,700 government retirees in Illinois are earning more than $100,000 a year in pensions, with one former University of Illinois official receiving $425,000 a year.
He said the number of $100,000-a-year pensioners is expected to reach 25,000 within the next eight years.
“It’s ridiculous,” he said. “I bitterly resent that I’m going to have to work until I drop to pay taxes to finance these lavish, gold-plated pensions.”
Tobin blamed state legislators for letting the state’s pension system get out of control. He said the state needs to take action immediately to start reining in pension costs.
His organization is proposing that all new state government employees be enrolled in 401(k) retirement programs instead of traditional pensions. He said this would immediately help fix the pension crisis in any state, yet no state in the national has adopted such a move.
Tobin chided Illinois legislators for their proposal to shift the pension burden for teachers onto the shoulders of local school districts in the Chicago suburbs and downstate.
“That’s their idea of reform,” he said. “It’s a tax shift. It’s not a tax cut. Any shift is a shaft” because taxpayers would “get shafted with a property tax hike to pay these lavish, gold-plated pensions for these people who are retiring in their 50s and early 60s.”
Tobin also suggested that government workers be required to work until they are 67 to receive full pension benefits. Under the current system, he said, teachers can retire with a full pension at age 55 after 34 years of employment. State police officers, he said, can retire at 50 after 25 years of work.
Another possible reform measure he suggested is to make government employees pay 10 percent more out of their salaries for their pensions. Tobin said this move alone would save Illinois taxpayers about $150 billion in pension costs over the next 35 years.