WBEZ | Chicago Teachers Pension Fund http://www.wbez.org/tags/chicago-teachers-pension-fund Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Chicago Public Schools new pension headache http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-public-schools-new-pension-headache-107512 <p><p>After Illinois lawmakers rejected a plan for Chicago Public Schools to delay pension payments, the District&rsquo;s budget problems may have gone from bad to worse.</p><p>Three years ago, the Illinois state legislature gave Chicago Public Schools what critics called a &lsquo;pension holiday,&rsquo; where the district could reduce payments owed to its retirement system. That&rsquo;s set to expire at the end of June, meaning Chicago&rsquo;s schools will have to make room for an extra $400 million in its budget to pay for teachers&rsquo; pensions.</p><p>CPS could have avoided writing that check by getting Illinois lawmakers to give them a longer timetable that would gradually increase pension payments over the next several years. This fiscal year, Chicago Public Schools is paying about $200 million toward its pensions. If Springfield takes no action, that number would jump to $600 million next year for pensions. The school system&rsquo;s budget is a little more than $5 billion.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re looking at how this will affect us,&rdquo; said Kelly Quinn on Monday, a spokeswoman for Chicago Public Schools.</p><p>Quinn wouldn&rsquo;t say if the school system is looking at layoffs, cuts to programs or a tax increase to pay for the $400 million if lawmakers don&rsquo;t return to Springfield and agree to a plan.</p><p>On Friday, the majority of state representatives voted against a bill that would&rsquo;ve given Chicago Public Schools some of the relief from pension payments that it was seeking.</p><p>&ldquo;This is by far the worst bill of this session,&rdquo; said State Rep. David McSweeney, R-Cary, during the floor debate. Many House Republicans said the state is in no position to allow another government agency to skip pension payments, considering Illinois&rsquo; pension problems.</p><p>The proposal lawmakers rejected would&rsquo;ve allowed Chicago Public Schools to pay $350 million to its pensions in its next fiscal year, then $500 million the year after that.</p><p>&ldquo;Sometimes we have to make some very difficult decisions,&rdquo; said State Rep. Elaine Nekritz, D-Buffalo Grove, who sponsored the legislation. &ldquo;I keep saying we have to make decisions between bad and worse and I think in this instance we have to pick bad.&rdquo;</p><p>Laurence Msall, with the fiscal watchdog group The Civic Federation, said Illinois lawmakers never should&rsquo;ve allowed CPS to not make pension payments in the first place.</p><p>&ldquo;They&rsquo;re going to have to do significant cutting,&rdquo; Msall said. &ldquo;They&rsquo;re going to have to reduce their personnel. They&rsquo;re going to have to make very difficult decisions.&rdquo;</p><p>Complicating matters is Illinois&rsquo; own pension payment problems. On Friday, Gov. Pat Quinn released a statement saying he wouldn&rsquo;t sign the bill giving Chicago Public Schools its pension ramp, unless lawmakers also approved a pension reform bill that affected state employees.</p><p><em>Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics for WBEZ. Follow him <a href="https://twitter.com/tonyjarnold">@tonyjarnold</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 04 Jun 2013 01:59:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-public-schools-new-pension-headache-107512