Monthly Archives: July 2014

Why does ComEd need an Armed Guard to handout “FREE” “Smart” Ice-Cream?

“We live in the Chicago suburbs. Our plan yesterday afternoon was to swim at the public pool. We entered the pool parking lot and saw the Smart (meter) Meets Sweet ice cream truck.   We turned around and went home to make protest signs and to print out simple information sheets.  

We arrived back at the pool and  selected a spot that was safely out of traffic, that was far enough away from the ComEd people so we would not be “in their face”, and that was far enough away from the pool building so we were not in the way of pool patrons.  One of the ComEd workers immediately began taking pictures of us with her phone.
smartmeter3)

We noticed an armed guard and were shocked!  Who was he there protecting?
Wheaton smartmetersweet truck armed ComEd
A female pool patron passed by and told us she that she had a smart meter, but was against them.  That lady was approached by two  ComEd employees.  One of the them went back to the ice cream truck and returned with a generic, blank notebook in hand.   My daughter was curious.  Thinking the notebook was some sort of petition, she approached the two women.  When my daughter asked the pool patron if this was, in fact, a petition, the ComEd worker rudely interrupted, “I am engaging with a customer.”
 
The most disturbing part of this interaction was when the armed guard approached my daughter, coming within 2 feet of her.  She was a defenseless young woman walking empty-handed toward two other women.
What is ComEd up to that requires an armed guard to be posted with their ice cream truck?
Who was it who said that people will always tell you what they are afraid of?  It seems to me that the presence of the armed guard and the bribe of ice cream are proofs that ComEd and the government fear an informed public.”

Pensions explained.

A previous version of this was posted on http://illinoisteaparty.net/pension-reform/. 
An updated version is being posted here, on dupagewatchdogs.org now   All links were valid when originally posted, but may no longer exist.  http://archive.org/web/web.php A.K.A. way back machine may find the content of old links.  Links for newer (updated data) are indicated in Blue.

Pension Explanation

The state funded public pension systems that are bankrupting the state of Illinois are “defined benefit” systems.  Each system sets a level of employee contributions and promised benefits based upon a formula.  The formulas assume matching employer (taxpayer) contributions, returns-on-investment, and amounts to be paid out based upon employee demographics, salary histories and actuarial tables.  If everything had gone as planned, the pension funds would be fully funded; since it hasn’t, the taxpayers are expected to pick up the shortfall.

Consider the Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS) as an example. The following chart shows the ratio between the TRS assets and TRS obligations.

trsfundinglevel 1987to2011

From page 8 of
http://trs.illinois.gov/subsections/general/Buck_2011_valuation_rept.pdf

Notice that in 1987 the TRS was about 70% funded. In 1994, Illinois passed legislation increasing the amount the state would contribute to pension funds. In 2004, Illinois sold pension obligation bonds in hopes of shoring up the pension funds. The TRS assumed that the invested assets would earn 8.5% in return-on-investments.  However actual returns-on-investment vary greatly. In 2001 and 2002 the TRS lost money, and from 2007 to 2009 the TRS lost about a fourth of its value.  The 2013 Report lists a funding ratio based on “Actuarial value” of 40.6%

End of Career Salary Spiking

Another factor causing the pension shortfall was wide spread salary spiking which occurred during the last two decades.   Salary spiking is defined as extra pay raises and/or high paying special projects that increase end of career salary and thus increase the pension for life.  In 2010 salary spiking resulted in the TRS paying out $3 for every $2 it had anticipated paying.  this chart is based on information from a 2011 FOIA request.

TRS effect of spiking

Pensions vs. Social Security and Incomes

Taxpayers never agreed to pay whatever it takes to fund public sector pensions, especially given the fact that many of these pensions exceed what those in the private sector receive.

  • In 2014 the maximum Social Security for an individual retiring at age 66 was approximately $30,000.
  • According to census.gov, (Table H-8B.  Median Income of Households by State Using Three-Year Moving Averages: 1984 to 2012) Illinois’ three year median household income peaked in 1998 to 2000 period at  $62,001 (inflation adjusted).  It dropped to $52,284 in the 2010 to 2012 period. While many taxpayers saw their incomes decline, public sector pensioners received cost of living allowances (COLA).  For instance, TRS paid a 3% compounded COLA.
  • Based on data in the June 30, 2013 TRS “Comprehensive Annual Financial Report,” the average salary for those with less than 5 years experience was $46,058, for those with 30+ years, it was $97,715, overall average was $67,558 and the average starting pension for those retired less than a year after 30+ years of work was $70,894.  Thus, an average recently retired teacher who worked a full career (30+ years) receives more in pension than the average active teacher earns for teaching, and more than the state’s median household income.
  • Based on Taxpayers United of America (TUA), as of April 1, 2014 the top 200 Illinois public sector pensions ranged from $196,613 to $452,843.  The majority are retired from universities followed by retired K-12 Superintendents.  For instance, Dr. Catalani who retired from Wheaton-Warrenville CUSD 200 in 2007 now receives $284,674/year.  His lifetime contributions cover 2.8% of his estimated lifetime benefits.
  • As of April 1, 2014 there were 11,054 Illinois public sector pensioners collecting more than $100K per year and 78,526 pensioners collecting over $50K per year. (TUA).

Illinois Constitution

The Illinois constitution requires our state government to have a balanced budget every year.  It does allow for borrowing (for special purposes – or up to 15% of the annual budget for emergencies), yet, Illinois ended the fiscal year June 30, 2011, with over $8 billion in unpaid bills and an estimated $85 billion in unfunded pension liabilities.  Combined ($8 + $85) was almost triple the 2011 budget which was around $33 billion.

In January 2011, Illinois “temporarily” raised its state income tax 67% and its corporate income tax 45% in an effort to stabilize its finances and to pay its $8.5 billion in past due bills. Despite generating about $30 billion in increased tax revenues (2011 to 2014) at the end of 2013 the state still had about $6.7 billion in past due bills and the unfunded liabilities have grown.  The bulk of the new revenue from the increased tax rates went to state pension payments and Medicaid.

  • In FY 1995 the state contributed $519 million to pensions which was 2.9% of the $17 billion general fund.
  • In FY 2006 the state contributed $938 million to pensions which was 3.8% of the $24 billion general fund.
  • In FY 2014 state contributions will be $5.99 billion, or 17% of the $35.7 billion general fund.

We are constantly being told that the under-funding problem is due to the state (taxpayers) not paying its fair share.  However, according to actual past contributions and current projections, for the teachers’ retirement system:

  • From 1995 to 2001 taxpayers contributed 93₵ for each $1.00 of member contribution,
  • From 2002 to 2011 (last decade) taxpayers contributed $1.86 for each $1.00 of member contribution, and
  • For 2012 to 2021 (current decade) taxpayers are projected to contribute $3.39 for each $1.00 of member contribution.

It appears that the state has always put in the “normal” portion, the part to cover benefits earned during the year, but, it has not always put in enough to cover the “actuarial” portion to make up for past shortfalls.

Recommendations

Illinois cannot balance the budget as required by law without addressing pensions.  Legislation has already been passed to address employees hired after January 1, 2011, which will help a few decades from now.  In order to solve the current problem, existing public sector employees and retirees must be part of the solution.

Minor pension reform did pass in 2013, but is being challenged in the courts.  On a related item, the Court ruled in July 2014 that retiree healthcare could not be diminished due to Illinois’ Constitution Article XIII, Section 5:

“…Membership in any pension…shall be an enforceable contractual relationship, the benefits of which shall not be diminished or impaired.”

However, the court cannot force funding or timely payments.  Already some hospitals and doctors are rationing care for state employees because they cannot afford to be the state’s bank.  What good is insurance without access?

The Constitution is not a suicide pact.  Given enough public pressure, it can be amended to change Article XIII, Section 5.

Links to source articles

The Law:

Pension Statistics, Shortfall & Abuse:

Raw Data is Available

TRS contributions

More Information:

  • 1/30/2012, (CHICAGO) The Civic Federation’s Illinois research institute warns that Illinois could face an unprecedented $34.8 billion backlog of unpaid bills [by FY2017] if action is not taken immediately to reform Pensions and Medicaid.  http://www.civicfed.org/FY2013IllinoisRoadMapPressRelease

Illinois actually has many public sector pension funds.  The following table summarizes the five large state wide pension funds that are in trouble financially.

http://capitolfax.com/2011/04/26/pews-new-pension-study-understates-illinois-pension-problem/ 

pension asset liability

  • TRS – Teachers’ Retirement System
  • SERS – State Employees’ Retirement System
  • SURS – State Universities Retirement System
  • JRS – Judges’ Retirement System
  • GARS – General Assembly Retirement System

Updated – Five largest pension funds in 2014

http://illinoisopportunity.org/pension-pressure/

2014 pension unfund

http://www.examiner.com/independent-in-chicago/secret-memo-shows-no-confidence-illinois-state-pensions#ixzz1rGhddiAp  February 9 memo from Executive Director, Dick Ingram, to the Teachers Retirement System Board of Directors warns that the State will be forced to not only cut from future pension funds, but also from currently retired teachers’ pensions.

http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-05-08/news/chi-rahm-emanuel-illinois-pensions_1_pension-systems-pension-funds-pension-costs

Today [May 8, 2012], the combined unfunded liabilities of Chicago’s four pension funds have grown to nearly $20 billion, which doesn’t include the $6.8 billion shortfall at the teachers fund.

Absent reforms, the fund for retired city firefighters would become insolvent in nine years, according to a city report issued two years ago. The police pension would go broke four years later. All four funds would be broke by 2030.

 

Lack of Confidence in COD President

“I have ‘No Confidence’ in COD President Breuder. It’s a rare but very refreshing moment when Labor leadership and Tea Party
leadership are on the same side.”

Denise Cattoni, DuPage resident & Founder, Illinois Tea Party   

See reports about the tense meeting at College of DuPage in July 2014 as reported by  For The Good Of Illinois.  http://campaign.r20.constantcontact.com/render?ca=259cb9bc-732a-415c-a7c8-b70b83ac2110&c=73e68b30-cdaa-11e3-bd8a-d4ae52733bf0&ch=752bb560-cdaa-11e3-bde2-d4ae52733bf0

smart meter opt out – second sample leter

Mr. Tom Przytulski
Commonwealth Edison
3 Lincoln Center
Oak Brook Terrace, Illinois  [60181]

date
Re: your address [your zip code] – SMART METER refusal

Dear Mr. Przytulski,
Per our telephone conversation, we are confirming with you that we will be keeping our analog electric meter.  We do not consent to having a Smart Meter from ComEd placed on our home for numerous reasons, which include:

1. Privacy issues (violates the 4th amendment to the US constitution)
2. Security issues
3. Safety issues
4. Potential health issues
5. Escalating utility costs
6. It is NOT required by Illinois law.

According to the Illinois Public utility act forcing your customers to take a Smart meter and charging a “Refusal fee” for those opting out is illegal.  This section took effect in 1997 and has not been changed.

Section 16-124 states “…An electric utility shall not require a residential or small commercial retail customer to take additional metering or metering capability as a condition of taking delivery services unless the Commission finds, after notice and hearing, that additional metering or metering capability is required to meet reliability requirements.”    (Source: P.A. 90-561, eff. 12-16-97.) 

We have not found any such ICC finding, meeting or notice.

According to the ICC Docket No. 13-0552, meeting minutes for the February 5th, 2014 ICC meeting in Chicago,  the ICC sets a surcharge for the purpose of incentivizing Smart meter acceptance.

COMMISSIONER del VALLE:
My proposed edit would be added to the Commission and Analysis and Conclusion section on page 13 of the proposed Order. It reads as follows: Purpose of this charge is primarily to motivate customers to switch while also avoiding the socialization of costs incurred by customers’ refusals. In the interest of transparency and to insure that this tariff has the desired effect, the Commission directs ComEd to make this charge a separate line item in each customer’s bill and use language for that line item that makes it absolutely clear that the charge is a penalty assessed as a consequence of the customer’s refusal.  The Commission recommends smart meter refusal charge as the language.

And CHAIRMAN SCOTT:
 
When this was sold to the General Assembly, it was sold on the basis that having all these meters in place means a lot for the system. That was part of the reason behind the hundred percent language in the statute are all customers’ language in the statute.  I also think we need to revisit the cost issue itself. We’ve got tariffs for similar kinds of operations that are a lot more expensive than this. I understand not wanting to have rate shock on particular customers; but the reality is whatever we don’t charge these customers, other customers are paying for. So it’s just as true that the well-to-do customer may be getting subsidized by the person of moderate or low means as well if they choose — if the person of means chooses to refuse in this case. And I don’t think that’s what anybody wants either. So I agree with you that the purpose here is to try to make sure we don’t have as many refusals. I think a cost does that, but I really think we need to continue to revisit to make sure that the cost is a correct one for a lot of different reasons.

This ICC rate setting for Smart Meter refusal charge is illegal as it conflicts with the Illinois Public Utilities Act (P.A. 90-561) section 16-124.

For the record, due to the legitimate reasons we have stated above, we do not consent to having the analog meter replaced by a Smart Meter at the above mentioned address (our residence).

We thank you for your time and consideration in this matter, and trust that ComEd will abide by our wishes and the Illinois state law as documented in this letter.

Sincerely,

______________________                 ___________________________

your name                   and                         spouses name

 

Please sign and date one copy of this letter and return it to your name and address as written confirmation that we are on the DO-NOT-INSTALL-A-SMART-METER list.

Tom Przytulski, employed by ComEd in the _____________________ position  do confirm that your address is on the list to keep the analog meter.

Signed: __________________________________ date: _____________

 

<new page>

Copies of this letter will be sent to:
The city of Wheaton –  Mayor GreskL mgresk@wheaton.il.us
John Prendiville, John K. Rutledge, W. Thoreson Saline, Evelyn Pacino Sanguinetti, Todd Scalzo and Phil Suess:   allcouncil@wheaton.il.us
Don Rose, City Manager: drose@wheaton.il.us

Congressman Peter Roskam
2700 International Drive, Suite 304, West Chicago, IL [60185]

State Senator Michael Connely
senatorconnelly21@gmail.com

State Rep Jeanne Ives
repjeanneives@gmail.com

Illinois Commerce Commission
Doug Scott, chairman
527 East Capitol Avenue, Springfield, Illinois [62701]

Illinois, Citizens Utility Board
David Kolata, Executive Director
309 West Washington Street, Suite 800, Chicago, Illinois [60606]
And emailed to dkolata@CitizensUtilityBoard.org

Illinois Attorney General: Lisa Madigan
500 South Second Street , Springfield, IL [62706]

 

Call ComEd’s deployment department at 866-368-8326 and tell them you do not consent to having your analog meter replaced by a Smart Meter, nor will you pay the refusal fee ($21.53/month). Follow up with a certified letter  (or ask for written confirmation)  Check with a lawyer for technical questions.  I am not one and am not giving legal advice.

District 200 Superintendent Leaving – $40,000 “gift”

May 29,2014 CUSD 200 announced that Dr. Harris was leaving immediately.  For the Wheaton Patch coverage see:

http://wheaton.patch.com/groups/schools/p/district-200-superintendent-leaving-post

You can view his last contract and separation agreement via links on  http://www.cusd200.org/Page/27

Note: in May 2013 the board gave Dr. Harris a 5 year contract with $20,000 pay increase despite the fact that he still had two years left on a three year contract.  At the June board meeting M. Vitone and I (Jan Shaw) spoke out against this.  I was interrupted and scolded.  You can see this interaction and Public comments starting at the 10:25 mark in this video:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZbvjDIeMiZo  And more comments at 2:07:20 (the end).

Now Dr Harris is leaving and the board is forgiving the $40,000 penalty that he should pay due to breaking the contract.  It was a 5-2 vote, with only Gambianni and Mathieson voting against it.  Next year, we need to keep Gambianni  and replace the other two board members that will be up for election.

Summary of the ten points of the Dr. Harris separation agreement – with my comments in ():

a – He will resign on May 29, 2014 and will no longer receive benefits… (OK)

b. He will return all District property  (OK)

c. This summer Dr. Harris will help pick his replacement (Really?  Why would you ask an ex-employee who is breaking a contract to do this?  Why give him this power?)

d. “Harris agrees that he will assist the District in completing the Community Engagement process, known as “Engage200,” including, at the discretion of the District, attendance at the final meeting of the District Community Engagement Session on June 18, 2014 to provide closure to the formal public portion of the process.” (He was not at the last meeting – These meeting were used to manipulate the public opinion)

e. Help announce his resignation (OK)

f. Help with the administrative closure to the 2013-2014 school years.  (OK)

g. Help organize the June 2014 board meeting (Why?  Is he the only one who knows what is going on?)

h. “Harris agrees to assist the District with collective bargaining negotiations until  agreement is reached with the Classified Employees Association.” (Why would they give an ex-employee this power?  Some teachers have told me that they are upset by the raises Dr. Harris and other administrators received while they held the line on pay increases.  There is a lack of transparency.  He is the wrong person to be doing this)

i. He will help with an orderly transition to next superintendent (OK)

j. “Harris agrees to perform all other duties, which are required for an orderly transition of Superintendents of Schools for the District.” (OK)

COD Delivering Political Support for $20 Million?

COLLEGE OF DUPAGE
Delivering Political Support for $20 Million?

See details on For the Good of Illinois

http://campaign.r20.constantcontact.com/render?ca=8b6bb5f2-e2a8-4647-9a0a-263547c3f18e&c=73e68b30-cdaa-11e3-bd8a-d4ae52733bf0&ch=752bb560-cdaa-11e3-bde2-d4ae52733bf0

 

and follow up – grant pulled after plan exposed.

http://campaign.r20.constantcontact.com/render?ca=cf5ac1e3-63c9-48ea-8ac9-84c3e63ae879&c=73e68b30-cdaa-11e3-bd8a-d4ae52733bf0&ch=752bb560-cdaa-11e3-bde2-d4ae52733bf0