Three years ago, the Chicago Park District reached a precedent-setting deal with its unions that called for both workers and taxpayers to pay more, and for the district’s retirement plan to be fully funded by 2049. But then the Illinois Supreme Court ruled in cases dealing with the state and city that benefits could not be reduced for those already on the payroll, and SEIU sued to overturn the park district deal.
In the short run, that means extra money for pensions will not have to be included in the $449.4 million proposed 2017 budget. The district will contribute $20.1 million toward pensions, about $7 million less than required under the 2013 deal and less than the $36 million that actuarially is required. Because of that—and because it doesn’t have to make the extra $12.5 supplemental pension payment it contributed this year—overall district spending will drop $8.7 million in the new budget.
In the long run, the shortage of contributions will only deepen the agency’s pension hole. The district is talking to its unions about a new pension deal, but it almost certainly will require taxpayers to pick up a larger share of the retirement load.