Peoria, Bloomington have worst-funded pensions in state

By Audrey Wise

March 13, 2014 Updated Mar 13, 2014 at 10:24 PM CDT

PEORIA, Ill -- The Illinois Policy Institute has recently named Peoria and Bloomington as having the worst-funded city pension systems in the state.

"We have met our required contribution levels every year, our unfunded liabilities have simply grown," said Peoria City manager Patrick Urich.

Unfunded liabilities mean that at any given time the amount of future payments obligations exceeds present funds.

City manager Urich said the reason is the general assembly increased benefit levels without helping municipalities cover those costs.

"We are going to have to, over the next 40 years work to try and balance that out and that's going to be very difficult," said Urich.

The systems has created a lose-lose situation. Cities are meeting the requirements, but services suffer, said study author Ted Dabrowski, VP of Policy at the Illinois Policy Institute.

"Cutting library hours, they're not getting to fix the roads the way they want," said Dabrowski.

He adds, lawmakers have to make changes or retirees face uncertainty.

"A recent bankruptcy in Alabama saw the pensions slashed for retirees by almost 50%, so those risks are there and the same thing will happen in Detroit, there will be a cut in pensions in Detroit," said Dabrowski.

Dabrowski said city leaders and taxpayers have to push for reform.

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