CUSD 200, Sorrick & Belha, Admin Retirement Games – Costs Taxpayers

On April 15, 2013, less than a week after the school board elections, the Daily Herald reported that CUSD 200 paid a fine of $140,000 due to recent pension spiking.

“Most of District 200’s penalties from the last school year, though, came from two administrators who had decided to retire and take raises under a deal struck before the 2005 law.  But when they stayed on two years longer, TRS decided the original contract had been altered and was no longer grandfathered in, and the district had to pay.”

From a FOIA:  The date on the bill from TRS to CUSD 200 for the two administrators (Belha and Sorrick) is 5/12/2012 and for the teachers is 8/25/2012. Penalties paid:
Sorrick $57,548.82
Belha $54,023.61
Cella $13,773.08
Hobson $4,562.20
Ingram $5,634.58
Morehead $10.02
Wagner, C $4,492.05

From a FOIA, we get the following data for the administrators:

Belha Belha Sorrick Sorrick
Fiscal Year TRS FOIA % increase TRS FOIA % increase
2005-2006 $146,537 $149,007
2006-2007 $156,728 6.95% $158,337 6.26%
2007-2008 $185,674 18.47% $190,004 20.00%
2008-2009 $185,674 0.00% $190,004 0.00%
2009-2010 $196,814 6.00% $201,404 6.00%
2010-2011 $208,623 6.00% $213,489 6.00%

We also found out that

  • Ms. Belha purchased 10 years of  out of system service and received 1.979 years of service for unused sick leave from TRS.  From the district, Belha received $25,200.86  for unused vacation and $11,214.36 for unused sick leave.
  • Ms. Sorrick purchased 1.026 years of  private school service and received 1.974 years of service for unused sick leave from TRS.  From the district, Sorrick received  $6,487.76 for unused vacation and $14,597.46 for unused sick leave.

Belha and Sorrick had contracts that promised a 20% end of career salary spike.   When the law changed so that school districts would be penalized for giving more than 6% raises during the last four years, CUSD 200 changed to giving four years at 6%.  This wide spread practice of end of career salary spiking is a leading cause of Illinois’ pension crisis.   Sorrick and Belha put in for their 20% bump, and requested that they could stay on another year.

During the time when Dr Drury was superintendent [2007-2009], the district cut aids, programs, and froze salaries that could be frozen.   Belha and Sorrick both had one year of no salary increase.

Dr. Drury left (with severance), Dr Baker served as interim Superintendent, then Dr. Harris became superintendent.  Belha and Sorrick both stayed two more year, with their 6% end of career salary spikes.

Comparing the average of their last four years, to what they were earning prior to the first spike, we see that they both increased their pensions by around 25%


  • last four year average: $194,196
  • original [2006-2007] pay : $156,728
  • increase: 23.91%
  • Assistant superintendent for Human Resources
  • Retirement letter dated 2/15/2007
  • Contract at that time ended June 2009
  • Requested a one year contract extension – retirement date to 6/30/2010.
  • Actually retired June 2011


  • four year average: $198,725
  • original [2006-2007] pay : $158,337
  • increase: 25.51%
  • Assistant superintendent for educational service
  • Retirement letter dated 2/5/2007
  • Contract at that time ended June 2009
  • Requested a one year contract extension – retirement date to 6/30/2010
  • Actually retired June 2011

Based on Ms. Sorrick’s retirement letter she was well aware of the rule change and was taking advantage of what she could:


sorrick retirement letter

Ms. Belha even noted that the board would not need to pay any penalty if she put in for retirement on June 30, 2009 and a one year extension to June 30, 2010… but would actually like 2011.  She also mentions being paid for unused vacation and sick leave days.  Belha summed it up as “I have no desire to retire but feel it is necessary for financial planning.”

belha retirement letter

In the December 17, 2008 meeting agenda, under Consent agenda, supplemental personnel report (which is dated October 8, 2008 in the document’s header) we found approval of their contract extensions.  The board did this despite knowing that the school district would need to pay a penalty.  

belha sorrick contract extensions

 The meeting minutes for December 17, 2008 meeting state: “Member Intihar moved, Member Slater seconded to accept the Consent Agenda as presented.  Upon a roll call vote being taken, the vote was: AYE 7, NAY 0.  The motion carried 7-0

Sorrick’s original contract allowed for a 20% increase in her last year of work.  The updated contracts simply referenced the retirement plan in the original multi-year contract.  Nothing in these contracts allowed for the 20% three years prior to her last year or the 6% increases.  Looking at the personnel reports  for July 2006  to May 2015, nothing references end of career pay raises or any raise for Sorrick and Belha.  How, When, By whom were these raises approved?


Sorrick 2004 to 2009 contract, Retirement Clause


sorrick 04_09 retirement clause Sorrick 2009 to 20010 contract, Retirement Clause

sorrick 09-10 retirement clause

 Sorrick 2010 to 20011 contract, Retirement Clause


sorrick 10-11 retirement clause

Their co-worker, Linda Knicker, did not trigger a penalty, but triggered a small penalty, $1,655.34 that was paid later than the original set.  Her late in career raises were as lucrative for her.

Fiscal Year TRS FOIA % increase
2005-2006 $134,786
2006-2007 $154,728 14.80%
2007-2008 $164,011 6.00%
2008-2009 $173,852 6.00%
2009-2010 $184,283 6.00%
2010-2011 $195,340 6.00%


  • Her contract allowed for 4 years of 6% increase.
  • Sick day payout in 2011: $13,356.54 and $42,666.72 for unused vacation.
  • On April 25, 2007 the personnel Report lists, Linda Knicker becoming an Assistant Superintendent Special Services, SSC Additional $9,955.  Effective:  July 1, 2006 – June 30, 2007.  
  • Average salary for the last four years: $179,372 which is 33.1% more than 2006 earnings, and 15.9% more than her 2007 earnings.

The good news is that starting in 2012, the teacher contract no longer gives an end of career salary spike that count toward the pension.  They replaced it with a lump sum bonus.

Why should any public employee receive any end of career bonus?  Why should anyone be allowed to accumulate vacation and sick leave days to count toward service or money at retirement?  How expensive are these practices?  More data to collect…


last updated 6-10-2015. changes indicated in blue

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