Fixing the state's pension problem

By WEEK Producer

July 31, 2012 Updated Jul 31, 2012 at 7:43 PM CDT

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- One of the issues likely to be discussed in Illinois' General Assembly's special session is House Bill 3865.

Under it, downstate school districts-- instead of the state-- would start paying into the teachers' pension system, in addition to the $210 million in state funds being cut from public schools this year.

Senator John Sullivan wants to hear what area school districts have to say. That's why he hosted a series of roundtable discussions this week.

Sullivan, whose district includes Mason County, says the pension cost-shift proposal is offensive to schools.

He says he wants to brainstorm better ways to relieve the state's pension problem.

"We don't really have a lot of good answers yet," said Sullivan. "I've told everybody the solution to the unfunded pension liability is probably going to have to be a shared sacrifice, which is going to be pain across everybody involved. My goal here is to find something as fair and equitable as we can."

"At this point, we're deficit spending," said John Asplund, Superintendent at Farmington Central School District #265. "We're trying not to impact the classroom at this point, but obviously going forward if this continues, we'll have to, at some point, change the number of teachers, because we can't afford to pay people with no money."

The Farmington Central School District Superintendent says funding teachers' pensions could cost about $425,000 a year, and that's on top of the nearly 10 percent employees already contribute towards pensions.

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