Metro-East News

Will pensions be a thing of the past for county board members?

Whether taxpayers will have to contribute toward Madison County board members’ pensions might change depending on a vote later this month.

Madison County Board members are scheduled to vote on whether to pull out of the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund in the wake of new requirements and limitations from the state.

County Board Chairman Alan Dunstan announced he will call for a resolution to end all board members’ participation in IMRF at the September meeting to reduce the cost of pensions and save taxpayers’ money.

“I think it is important that the board addresses this issue now, rather than leaving it to the new board which will be seated in December,” Dunstan said. The measure would take effect on Dec. 1.

19 Madison County board members participate in IMRF

26 St. Clair County board members participate in IMRF

“My recommendation to end board members’ participation in IMRF is not an action against the members of the Madison County Board,” Dunstan said. “It is a move which will benefit county taxpayers and put Madison County in compliance with (Senate Bill 2701).”

Under the new law, board members would have to submit time sheets to prove the number of hours that they work on behalf of their constituents, and would only be eligible for IMRF if they work more than 600 to 1,000 hours per year, depending on the county. New board members will not be allowed to participate at all.

Dunstan said that both Democrats and Republicans on the board “work very hard and put in a significant number of hours” on behalf of constituents. Board members are paid $14,495 a year for their work.

“Importantly, the members of the Madison County Board do not serve because of the retirement fund, they serve to help the people of our county and to make Madison County the best-managed county in the state, which I believe it is,” Dunstan said. “I don’t think there will be a single board member who will oppose ending participation in IMRF.”

I don’t think there will be a single board member who will oppose ending participation in IMRF.

Madison County Board Chairman Alan Dunstan

Currently 19 of the 29 board members participate in IMRF. The county’s contribution to the fund is approximately 11.67 percent, according to county administrator Joe Parente. That translates to about $1,692 per year for each board member participating in the retirement fund. If the measure is successful, Parente estimates that the county will save $32,000 a year in IMRF contributions.

It’s one of the few subjects on which both candidates for County B chairman primarily agree. Madison County Treasurer Kurt Prenzler issued a statement applauding Gov. Bruce Rauner for signing the bill preventing new board members from signing up for IMRF and pointed out that board members in Madison County would have to prove they work 12 hours a week for 50 weeks a year to continue participating. However, he stopped short of approving of Dunstan’s decision.

“I believe the chairman is calling for a resolution because he wants to save face,” Prenzler said. “As leader of the County Board, he’s looked the other way and now he has a problem.”

I believe the chairman is calling for a resolution because he wants to save face. As leader of the County Board, he’s looked the other way and now he has a problem.

Madison County Treasurer Kurt Prenzler

Dunstan said he had voted against including Madison County in the Elected County Officials Fund in 1997 and supported withdrawing from ECO in 2004, as well as advocating for the 2009 legislation creating a two-tier IMFR pension system. He said ending board members’ participation in the retirement program was the next step.

In St. Clair County, 26 out of 29 County Board members participate in IMRF. Board members Lorraine Haywood, Curtis Jones and Ken Sharkey are not enrolled in the system. St. Clair County Board Chairman Mark Kern said his board will discuss the issue later.

The amount St. Clair County contributes toward pensions for County Board members was not available as of Friday.

Kern said board members currently don’t turn in time sheets.

“We have an active County Board,” Kern said. “There very well might be a good number that fill out the time sheets and say what they do, some others might say it’s not worth it.”

Kern added that County Board members, who are paid more than $19,000 a year, did not take a pay raise this year, and neither did he.

“The board is cautious about spending money and continues to hold the line in St. Clair County,” Kern said.

An internal IMRF study estimated that by 2018, half the membership of the pension plan will have been admitted under the two-tier revised guidelines established in 2010. Dunstan said as of 2015, external audits indicated Madison County’s IMRF plan was in strong financial condition and funded at 95 percent.

State Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, proposed the newly enacted legislation. He said county board members currently part of IMRF need to have detailed time sheets of hours doing county board work. Franks said the work could include attending county board meetings, committee meetings, meeting with staff members to prepare for county meetings, and meeting with constituents, but not including campaign work. The detailed time sheets would be subject to Freedom of Information Act requests.

Under the new law, any new person who is elected or appointed to a county board after Aug. 26, would not be eligible for an IMRF pension.

Joseph Bustos: 618-239-2451, @JoeBReporter

Elizabeth Donald: 618-239-2507, @BNDedonald

Madison County Board members who participate in IMRF:

  • Stephen Adler (R-Alton)
  • Arthur Asadorian (D-Granite City)
  • Steven Brazier (D-East Alton)
  • Gussie Glasper (D-Madison)
  • Ann Gorman (D-Edwardsville)
  • Michael “Doc” Holliday (D-Alton)
  • Judy Kuhn (R-Trenton)
  • Bruce Malone (D-Alton)
  • Tom McRae (R-Bethalto)
  • Bill Meyer (R-Hamel)
  • Jack Minner (D-Edwardsville)
  • Kristen Novacich (D-Granite City)
  • Nick Petrillo (D-Granite City)
  • Robert Pollard (I-East Alton)
  • Brenda Roosevelt (D-Glen Carbon)
  • M. Joe Semanisin (D-Maryville)
  • Kelly Tracy (D-Marine)
  • Larry Trucano (D-Collinsville)
  • Michael Walters (R-Godfrey)
  • Not participating: Roger Alons (R-Troy), Mick Madison (R-Bethalto), Jim Dodd (D-Alton), Brad Maxwell (R-Edwardsville), William Robertson (D-Hartford), Helen Hawkins (D-Granite City), Bill Gushleff (D-Granite City), Jamie Goggin (R-Edwardsville), Lisa Ciampoli (R-Collinsville), Liz Dalton (D-Collinsville)

St. Clair County Board members who participate in IMRF

  • Robert Allen (D-Fairmont City)
  • Mike Baker (D-Mascoutah)
  • Fred Boch (R-O’Fallon)
  • Carol Clark (D-Caseyville)
  • June Chartrand (D-Dupo)
  • Ed Cockrell (R-New Athens)
  • Marty Crawford (D-Centreville)
  • Jerry Dinges (D-Belleville)
  • Ken Easterly (D-Belleville)
  • Angela Grossmann-Roewe (D-Belleville)
  • Oliver Hamilton (D-East St. Louis)
  • Frank Heiligenstein (D-Freeburg)
  • Craig Hubbard (R-O’Fallon)
  • Joseph Kassly, Jr. (D-Fairview Heights)
  • Joan McIntosh (D-Washington Park)
  • Nick Miller (R-Lebanon)
  • Lonnie Mosley (D-East St. Louis)
  • Roy Mosley, Jr. (D-East St. Louis)
  • Michael O’Donnell (R-Millstadt)
  • Steve Reeb (R-Shiloh)
  • Dixie Seibert (D-Belleville)
  • Larry Stammer (D-Belleville)
  • C. David Tiedemann (R-Belleville)
  • Bob Trentman (D-Belleville)
  • C. Richard Vernier (D-Belleville)
  • John West (R-O’Fallon)
  • Not participating: Curtis Jones (D-Belleville), Ken Sharkey (D-Fairview Heights), Lorraine Haywood (D-Cahokia)