Northwest Herald: End McHenry County Board Pensions

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Editorial Board on June 15th, 2016:

McHenry County Board members are doing the right thing in working toward ending their participation in the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund.

Part-time local elected officials have no business receiving a taxpayer-funded pension, and the steps the board is taking to make sure future members no longer will are the right ones.

The County Board’s Management Services Committee voted, 6-0, Monday to recommend approval of eliminating IMRF as a benefit for future members and ceasing participation for existing ones, including the elected chairman. The County Board’s Human Resources Committee passed the same measure, 7-0, earlier.

The full County Board is expected to vote on the matter at its June 21 meeting. We recommend passage.

According to a Tuesday story by senior reporter Kevin Craver, County Board members who already are vested, meaning they served the minimum number of years to get an IMRF pension, still will get one upon reaching retirement age. Members who are not vested will not lose the credit they have accumulated to date, meaning it can be applied if they take a government job that is IMRF-eligible. The Illinois Constitution forbids altering pension benefits already accrued.

Yes, board members had to be cajoled into taking these actions.

Earlier this year, state Rep. Jack Franks sought an IMRF investigation into whether County Board members, most of whom are enrolled in the system, were working the required 1,000 hours a year to be eligible for pensions. Officials elected to county, township and municipal governments that have adopted a 1,000-hour standard, as the McHenry County Board did in 1997 for themselves and county government employees, will not meet that threshold, barring “highly unusual circumstances,” according to IMRF rules. The IMRF investigation is ongoing.

Also, legislation, largely authored by Franks, that would end future pensions for County Board members statewide is awaiting Gov. Bruce Rauner’s signature.

It’s unlikely the County Board would be taking these steps without this outside pressure, but they are the proper steps to take, regardless.

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