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Taxpayer Group Says Stephenson County Pension Burden is Unsustainable

Group calls many pension payouts excessive and says county taxpayers can no longer afford them.
FREEPORT -- A taxpayer watchdog group says high pension payouts are draining government coffers and are at risk of insolvency.

The group 'Taxpayers United of America' held a news conference to release the results of a new study of the pensioners of Freeport municipal, Stephenson County governments, Stephenson County government schools, Freeport retired police and fire, and Highland Community College.

Among their findings is that one former Freeport School District employee whose pension is $130,000 per year will have a lifetime payout of more than $4 million. That's despite the fact he only contributed about $140,000 to his pension over his career. Charts with more of their findings are attached above.

The group says such payouts are leading to growing unfunded pension liabilities which are unsustainable.

“Stephenson County’s police and firefighters, as well as those from all over the state, should be the biggest proponents of pension reform. Without sweeping reforms that are implemented immediately, these civil workers are looking at a bleak retirement when taxpayers can afford to pay only pennies on the benefit promises that have mounted. We have passed the point where you can tax your way out of the problem; it is mathematically impossible,” said Rae Ann McNeilly, executive director of TUA.

'Taxpayers United' supports comprehensive pension reform where all new government employees are placed into 401K-style accounts similar to what many private companies offer. Public employee groups oppose such a plan, however, and are suing to have a pension reform law passed by the Illinois State Legislature overturned as unconstitutional.
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