Training for college trustees essential
Thank you for the opportunity to provide another perspective to your series of articles and the editorial concerning community college trustees' expenses that have been reimbursed by their colleges.
The seven trustees of each of 38 community college districts in Illinois are elected by the residents of their district to serve 6-year terms. Community colleges teach classes for almost 1 million people every year, 64 percent of our state's higher education students. Effective post-high school education is increasingly essential for our citizens to qualify for good jobs; community colleges meet that need.
Many, if not most, trustees do not come from higher education but have diverse backgrounds and careers. Learning how to become effective trustees is of paramount importance. The Illinois Community College Trustees Association (ICCTA) and the American Community College Trustees Association (ACCT) provide conferences for trustees to learn how to more effectively guide their respective colleges.
The Illinois Public Community College Act states: "Members of the board shall serve without compensation but shall be reimbursed for their reasonable expenses incurred in connection with their service as members." It seems appropriate that trustees who devote 100 to 200 hours per year serving their colleges should be reimbursed for appropriate expenses. Higher education in Illinois has more pressing challenges than trustee expenses if we are to continue to prepare increasing numbers of our citizens for successful careers.
I have been a trustee at Kishwaukee College in Malta, just west of DeKalb, for nine years. I encourage other Illinois trustees to take advantage of all opportunities to learn how to better serve their students and communities.
Retirement benefits were earned
The Illinois General Assembly is currently considering a bill which would eliminate the "13th payment" from the IMRF retirement plan. Besides being in violation of the Illinois Constitution, this proposal is simply not right.
The 13th payment is not a "bonus" as some, including the Daily Herald, have characterized it. The 13th payment is a cost-of-living adjustment that IMRF retirees receive instead of compounding COLAs like other retirement systems (even the disastrous state pensions) receive.
This cost-of-living payment was negotiated between employer and employee groups and approved by the General Assembly in 1992. At that time, a compounding COLA was estimated to cost 1.1 percent of payroll. The 13th payment -- only 0.62 percent.
The workers/retirees in IMRF have already compromised and saved Illinois taxpayers almost 50 percent versus a compounding COLA. (Perhaps that is one reason IMRF is currently 96 percent funded.) Having been guaranteed certain benefits, by the employers and by the constitution, these retirees worked weekends, holidays, overnights, birthdays, and anniversaries. These are people like sheriff's deputies, 911 operators, police evidence technicians and records clerks, snowplow drivers, highway workers.
They did the job and earned the retirement they were promised. Now it is time for us to keep that promise.