Dist. 41 divided on who should pay administrators' pensions

Posted11/10/2015 5:23 AM

The Glen Ellyn Elementary District 41 school board remain divided on whether to cut a benefit for 16 employees who currently don't have to pay toward their pensions.

Educators contribute 9.4 percent of their salaries to the state's Teachers' Retirement System, and their employers have to chip in less than 1 percent.

In District 41, teachers pay their own pension contributions. But for 16 administrators, the district covers all the contributions-- paying both its share and administrators' share on their behalf. The group includes assistant superintendents, principals and assistant principals.

At issue is whether eliminating the perk would drive away quality talent. Board member Kurt Buchholz believes it wouldn't.

"We're investing a lot of dollars in the administrators," he said. "I just don't think that we have to take care of their retirement payments. We may be trailblazers in everything we do with our education, but in this particular case we can't move along."

Board member Patrick Escalante suggested setting a cap -- the board could "hammer out" whether that's a dollar amount or percentage -- for what the district pays on the administrators' personal contributions, a program he says would provide a "middle ground" and not apply to new hires. At the end of three years, he suggested, the district could revisit the issue.

"It's gives you some stability that there's administration consistency," he said. "If we do this on a scaled basis, we'll see what kind of new hires walk in the door if they do or do not like the basket that we offer. And then capping the three years for the current employees at that level, you'll start getting a temperature check with (Superintendent Paul Gordon's) conversations with the staff."

But board President Erica Nelson said the board should look elsewhere to trim the expense -- roughly $200,000 this current fiscal year -- out of the budget.

"To me the fact that we're all picking on TRS and saying lower that one, I mean you could just go right to the salary," board member Joe Bochenski said. "…The reason we're talking about TRS, at least I think we are, is because No. 1, it's a hot topic."

Board Member Dean Elger was absent from the meeting but wrote in an email read to the rest of the board by Bochenski that he would oppose eliminating the benefit and noted that the district falls "in the vast majority with respect to payments to TRS for our staff."

The board asked the district's human resources department head to compare salary data from nearly a dozen other districts and found that two -- Glenview School District 34 and Indian Prairie Unit District 204 -- contribute only the employer share to TRS.

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