Belleville News-Democrat

From the desk of O’Fallon Mayor Herb Roach: State pension debt

- BY HERB ROACH Mayor of O’Fallon

We have heard for years Illinois has one of the worst, if not the worst, state pension debts and overall debts of any of the states.

But who is impacted by this debt and how does it impact communitie­s across the state?

During the last 16 years, cities have paid ever increasing more dollars to state pension costs. This means you, the taxpayer, are paying more toward this. But the shortfalls have not gone down. Just the opposite, they have continued to grow.

To try to show you what this means, we will look at some of the most recent data. In 2003, seven of the 175 largest cities received an “F” rating on a scale of A to F. In 2019, that number grew to 102. This has impacted cities of all sizes. For example, Peoria, with a population of over 100,000, was the worstoff of the 20 largest cities (excluding Chicago).

Further, 112 of Illinois’ 175 largest cities now have more pension beneficiar­ies than they have active workers. In many cases, pension costs as a share of city budgets have doubled, increasing­ly crowding out core government services.

One local city has cut their police force in half since 2003 to reduce costs and has seen their crime statistics rise sharply in the recent years. They are not alone; similar things have occurred in other communitie­s across the state.

Here in our local area of Madison and St. Clair Counties, four out of the seven cities with population­s over 20,000 have received an “F” rating on their pension funding. These same four cities are also below the 50% funded ratio on both their police and firefighte­rs pensions.

You should be glad to know O’Fallon is not one of those

four cities. You should also know, unlike many cities around us, O’Fallon does not offer any pension benefits to any of our elected officials. The council voted to stop offering this years ago.

The state is not making it any easier on cities. During the past legislativ­e session, they passed over 120 new unfunded mandates on local cities. All of this makes it more challengin­g for cities to control expenses and taxes while still maintainin­g services.

As residents of O’Fallon, you should always be able to reach out to your elected officials and ask questions about what is happening in O’Fallon. Having open communicat­ions is important to me and something I care very deeply about. Thank you for reading, and please remember, my door is always open!

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