Chicago complains about downstate pensions but receives extra state aid
In January of this year, Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan appeared to endorse the idea to force downstate school districts to pay for the state’s portion of pension contributions.
Senate President John Cullerton floated that very proposal last year, and Gov. Pat Quinn added his support not long ago. Madigan said that since Chicago pays its teacher’s pensions, the downstate school districts should also pay for their school pensions.
Shifting the state’s portion to local districts will substantially raise local property taxes, but the state is out of money and this is simply another attempt to transfer state bills to someone else.
As is his custom, Madigan didn’t come right out and officially endorse the idea to ease the state’s ongoing budget strain by passing pension obligations down the governmental food chain to local schools and public colleges and universities, but he did indicate that he was strongly leaning in that direction.
Madigan also correctly pointed out that the Chicago school system has its own pension fund and pays its own employer share. “You’re never going to read this in a newspaper article… they’re never going to put a paragraph in there talking about that,” Madigan said, echoing others who’ve wondered for years why Chicago taxpayers pay for their own school pension fund while they and the rest of the state’s taxpayers pick up the tab for suburban and downstate school districts.
What Madigan failed to mention, however, while admonishing the rest of the state for failure to contribute to their pension systems, is that Chicago and collar county school districts get special treatment regarding General State Aid, which downstate districts do not receive. Hmmm!
Fifty-four districts – located primarily in Cook and the collar counties – received an additional $457 million in state education funding subsidies this year thanks to a little-known law passed years ago to bail out districts with property tax caps.
Oak Park was among those on the receiving end as Illinois quietly doled out some $6 billion since 2000 to boost state aid for select school districts – many in the Chicago region – that couldn’t get more money from property owners because of laws that limit tax collections.”
But Oak Park is nothing when compared to Chicago, a city that received $284 million, or 56 percent, of the state’s total PTELL Adjustment funding in 2012.
Fair, according to Madigan, depends on whose ox is getting gored. Since the state can’t pay its bills, Springfield politicians are simply dumping whatever they can on others in the state to make up for their overspending and borrowing.
The PTELL tax adjustment that Chicago and other collar county districts receive is nothing more than a multimillion dollar subsidy that comes at the expense of other school districts and taxpayers, just like Madigan complains the downstate school district pensions are doing to the state budget.