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Editorials

Thumbs-down: Pension funding an issue for local government, too

Firefighters Pension Board President Eric Walker (center) addresses the board Wednesday during the meeting at Sycamore Fire Station 1.
Firefighters Pension Board President Eric Walker (center) addresses the board Wednesday during the meeting at Sycamore Fire Station 1.

Thumbs-up: To the selection of Bill Nicklas as DeKalb’s city manager. Nicklas, whose selection as the city’s newest executive leader will be up for a City Council vote Tuesday, has built a reputation for effective management in local government and is well-known by many of the key players in the community. We have no doubt he will be confirmed, and wish him good luck in his second turn as DeKalb’s city manager

Thumbs-up: To a new home for a special education provider. On Wednesday, representatives of Camelot Education and Genoa-Kingston School District 424 marked the christening of a former elementary school building as the new Northwest Center for Autism. Camelot, which will operate the school, provides academic and therapeutic services for students ages 3 to 21 with special needs, including autism spectrum disorder, multiple disabilities, emotional disabilities and other challenges. There currently are 90 students enrolled, but the new building will provide enough space for the enrollment to grow with demand. Young people with special needs in our community are entitled to an education that will help them be all they can be, and we hope the Northwest Center’s new building will help meet this need.

Thumbs-up: To a unique and beautiful winter phenomenon. The combination of fog in the air and temperatures below freezing left trees, fences, grass and roofs coated with white frost Sunday and Monday. The phenomenon, known as hoarfrost, made for lots of unique and beautiful pictures. Thanks to everyone who shared theirs with us!

Thumbs-down: To the still-unresolved problem of underfunded public pensions. This week, we learned that DeKalb’s police pensions are funded at only 50 percent, while the firefighters’ pensions are funded at 41 percent. In Sycamore, it’s a little better – fire pensions are funded at 64 percent and police pensions at 63 percent. But neither is good enough – state law requires that all public pensions be
90 percent funded by 2040. The reality is that pension promises to current and former employees around Illinois have been too rich, and the budgets of local and state government are straining to keep up with the payments. While Illinois is not the only state with this problem, it’s the one in the worst shape. This is a result of multiple factors, including the lack of contributions by government, the generosity of the benefits promised, and years of pension spiking and people “double-dipping.” For the sake of both the people who have been promised pensions and the taxpayers who will be expected to pay for them somehow, our state representatives, senators and our new governor cannot ignore this problem.

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