While state legislators are still grappling with pension reform, Will County officials continue to look at ways to adopt some reforms within their own powers of government.
Board Speaker Jim Moustis, R-Frankfort Township, asked his executive committee members to consider increasing the number of hours required for participation in the (IMRF).
Currently, the board has adopted a standard of 600 hours per year, or 12 hours per week, but Moustis proposed increasing that to 1,000 hours per year, or 20 hours per week, like many other units of government.
Will County has been part of the IMRF since its inception in 1945 and has adopted a 600-hour standard to qualify for this benefit, for employees and elected officials.
It can up that to 1,000 hours, but once it does, it cannot revert back to 600 hours, Moustis said.
He said he is not sure how many, if any, employees would be affected by that, but the issue will be further discussed at the Oct. 13 executive committee meeting.
“Should people who work 12 hours a week get the benefit of a pension?” Moustis asked his fellow committee members. “Do we want a standard that says you will work at least 20 hours a week to be eligible for this benefit?”
He said that employees could “spike” their pensions by working full time in their final few years, but get the benefit of all their accumulated time as a part time employee.
“Is that fair to taxpayers?” he asked, adding that most people consider a true part time job as 20 hours per week.
Any change would not impact current employees, only new hires, he said.
“We cannot affect pension reform, but this is one thing that we can look at that is reasonable. We should at least have a discussion about it,” he said.
Board member Mike Fricilone, R-Homer Glen, said 20 hours was “certainly reasonable,” but he would like to see a 30-hour per week minimum.
All of this comes on the heels of a new law that singled out county employees, and disqualifies newly elected part time county board members from receiving pension benefits through the IMRF, but allows those currently in the program to remain. It also requires county board members to document their hours, and file monthly reports to ensure they are meeting the requirement of working 600 hours per year.
It does not apply to full time, county-wide elected positions, such as executive, clerk, state’s attorney, coroner and sheriff.
Questions have been raised on whether the new law is constitutional.
Last month, the Will County board planned to vote on a resolution to eliminate its participation in IMRF altogether, but Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow said the board did not have the legal authority to do that.
Some members felt that pensions should be eliminated for elected officials.