Post Employment Compensation

Years ago, and unbeknownst to taxpayers, School district in Illinois began giving retiring teachers extra pay shortly before they retired.  This policy costs the districts very little, but boosted pensions substantially. This practice is one of the leading causes of the unfunded pension liability.

The following table shows the post employment goodies for teachers in Wheaton-Warrenville CUSD 200.

cusd200 post employmentThe affect of this (and similar arrangements in other districts can be seen in the pension payouts.  Take a look at pdf page 109 of

Comprehensive Annual Financial Report
for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2015
Teachers’ Retirement System of the State of Illinois

pension data 2015 p 109

A teacher who had been retired less than one year (i.e. retired in 2015) who had 30 to 34 years of service on average would be receiving $5,661 in current monthly benefits, or $67,932 annually.   Graphing the current monthly  pensions from this page we get: curr pension 2015 graph


Notice the jump in the data about 20 years ago, That would be around 1995.   Could this be due to end of career salary spiking?

Or was there any changes made tot he TRS law around this time that would account for the jump?


Taxpayers Cover $4 Million$ in Teachers College Costs

“Taxpayers in 70 suburban school districts paid more than $4 million last year to send 3,085 teachers back to college.”  This increase in education leads to higher salaries and higher pensions.   did an excellent job of covering the details in the Daily Herald:

Send your comments to:

Capping Pensions would save How Much?

The Illinois Supreme court rulings overturning all attempted pension reforms for current retirees and employees means that any real pension fix will require an Illinois’ Constitution amendment and most likely  an agreement with the government-employee unions.  Two suggestions that I (Jan Shaw) have been making are:


  1. Tie any Cost of Living allowance (COLA) to inflation and the health of the fund. No COLA if doing so would result in the fund being less than 100% funded.  And cola should never exceed inflation.


  1. Many pensions are out of line. Based on 2013 data, we discovered that the average starting pension for a recently retired teachers who worked 30+ years ($70,894), exceeded the average pay for active teachers ($67,558).  Cap pensions at a reasonable amount (set $ amount or percent of the maximum salary for which social security is taken).


In order to get a handle on how much could be saved if pensions were capped, I copied data from

The “TRS – Comprehensive Annual Financial Report” made a few basic assumptions and ran some what-if scenarios.

For 2014, the data is on page 104 (of the pdf)

For 2015, the data is on page 109 (of the pdf)

trs pension pay

The charts group retirees based on years of service and how long since retirement.  For each group they show the number of Retirees, the Average current benefit, and the Average original benefit. For my estimates, I assumed that all retires in each group receive the average.  Thus the number of retirees affected based on my computations may be higher than the actual number but the $ savings should be accurate.


These savings are based on TRS data only.  Other pension plans would also have savings.


Year 2014 2015
Total paid $5,189,487,408 $5,459,528,136
 # retirees 101,184 103,501
if capped at $50,000
annual savings $1,118,127,216 $1,279,533,828
%savings 22% 23%
# affected 59,220 61,733
% affected 59% 60%
if capped at $55,000
annual savings  $841,750,932 $968,973,684
%savings 16% 18%
# affected 50,975 53,421
% affected 50% 52%
if capped at $65,000
annual savings $369,812,448 $476,685,432
%savings  7% 9%
# affected  41,310 48,578
% affected 41% 47%


For another data point, see Tax Payers United of America’s “10TH ANNUAL REPORT ILLINOIS STATE PENSIONS” report.

According to it:

15,661 state pensioners each collect more than $100,000 annually

  • GARS – 51
  • JRS – 636
  • TRS – 9,596
  • SURS – 3,955
  • SERS – 880
  • IMRF – 543 92,386

state pensioners each collect more than $50,000 annually

  • GARS – 158
  • JRS – 741
  • TRS – 56,111
  • SURS – 15,628
  • SERS – 13.960
  • IMRF – 5,788



Only in Illinois, a state on the verge of bankruptcy, can its very own lawmakers accelerate bankruptcy by their very own greed to get what they can before the inevitable event occurs. Yes; Illinois legislators, on both sides of the aisle, passed laws granting themselves golden pensions, for their part-time jobs to represent “we, the people of Illinois.”

In 1995, State Rep. Dave Leuchtefeld (R) was the first to opt out of the General Assembly Retirement System.

Since 2010, Rep. Ron Sandack has advocated for his HB138 legislation that would kill pensions for new lawmakers.

Synopsis of HB138 as Introduced:

Amends the General Assembly Article of the Illinois Pension Code. Restricts participation in the General Assembly Retirement System by members of the General Assembly to persons who become participants before January 1, 2016 and provides that, beginning on that date, the System shall not accept any new participants who are members of the General Assembly. Makes related changes. Effective immediately.

GARS is only 16.8% funded (FY2015). So; it is underfunded by hundreds of millions for a very small number of participants. Taxpayers are on the hook for an even bigger future bill.


#1 HIGHEST GARS PENSION TO-DATE:  Arthur Berman (D) now takes $19,652 a month ($235,824); His pension includes a pension spike via Chicago Public Schools; served as state senator for 31 years; retired in 2000.

Retired Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley (D) now takes $132,384/year($11,032/month); with some pension spiking. He served as a state senator for 8 years;

Retired Governor Pat Quinn (D) now takes $133,164/year ($11,097/month).  Years of service in legislator undocumented at this time;

Retired House Minority Leader Tom Cross (R) now takes $81,012/year ($6,751/month). He served as a state representative since 1993; and

State Senator Kirk Dillard (R) now takes $6,831 per month ($81,972/year). He served in the state senate from 1994-2014.

Every single one of the examples cited above have pensions significantly higher that their annual pay as part-time legislators; currently about $68,000 per year; more if committee chairman, etc. It is called greed, and taking care of business for themselves.


RK 5/7/16

Illinois State legislators who have declined a state pension

The following is a list of current (May 2016) legislators who turned down their pension.  Is your Rep on  this list?  If not, ask why.


State of Illinois legislators (38) who have declined to take a state pension:

House (34)

  • Steven Anderson, R-Geneva*
  • John Anthony, R-Plainfield*
  • Mark Brainsick, R-Plainfield*
  • Avery Bourne, R-Raymond*
  • Peter Breen, R-Lombard*
  • Kelly Burke, D-Evergreen Park
  • Tim Butler, R-Springfield*
  • John Cabello, R-Machesney Park*
  • Katherine Cloonen, D-Kankakee
  • C.D. Davidsmeyer, R-Jacksonville
  • Scott Drury, D-Highwood
  • Brad Halbrook, R-Charleston
  • Josh Harms, R-Watseka
  • Jeanne Ives, R-Wheaton*
  • Sara Jimenez, R-Leland Grove*
  • Dwight Kay, R-Glen Carbon*
  • Stephanie Kifowit, D-Oswego
  • Dave Leuchtefeld, R-Okawville
  • Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill
  • Karen McConnaughay, R-Aurora
  •  Margo McDermed, R-Frankfort*
  • David McSweeney, R-Cary
  • Anna Moeller, D-Elgin
  • Thomas Morrison, R-Palatine*
  • Marty Moylan, D-Des Plaines
  • Jim Oberweis, R-Sugar Grove
  • Reggie Phillips, R-Charleston
  • Ron Sandack, R-Downers Grove*
  • Sue Scherer, D-Decatur
  • Silvana Tabares, D-Chicago
  • Grant Wehrli, R-Naperville*
  • Barbara Wheeler, R-Crystal Lake*
  • Keith Wheeler, R-Oswego*
  • Kathleen Willis, D-Addison


Senate (4)

  • Belinda Bush, D-Grayslake
  • Tom Cullerton, D-Villa Park
  • Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill
  • Julie Morrison, D-Des Plaines

* Denotes current HB sponsors


Non-legislators who advocate against the state legislators’ pension system:

Governor Bruce Rauner (R)

Comptroller Leslie Munger (R)


Note:  Although not in the above list of names; in 2011, former State Treasurer and State Representative Dawn Clark-Netsch (D) paid back $10,000 from her pension to the state.

Current status of  the General Assembly Retirement System (GARS)

Net Present Assets $56,789,460
Actuarial Total Liability $323,379,470
Unfunded Liability $266,590,010
Percent Funded 17.56%
Active Participants 158
Beneficiaries 421
Average Salary $71,114


IL Pension Bicentenial Report 2015

This report contains history, current law and funding levels for Illinois pension funds.   A good reference document. 

For instance page 82 of pdf has details for TRS, Tier 1 (hired prior to 1/1/2011)

  • Basic Rate of Annuity: 2.2% per year of service
  • Maximum Annuity: 75%

It would take just over 34 years to reach the max of 75%

Not listed here, unused sick and vacation days count towards service.  Two years is not unusual.

If a teacher started right out of college at age 22, worked 33 years and cashed in 2 years of accrued sick/vacation days, that would allow him to retire at age 55 with FULL (75% of the average last 4 years of salary) benefits.

This report has data for each state run fund, each Chicago fund, and fire & police retirement funds for each municipality.

Financial Condition of IL State Retirement Systems FY 2015

This entry has links to  several recent (2015-2016) reports on pensions.

Illinois Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability published a report in March 2016:

Report on the Financial Condition of the State Retirement Systems FY 2015

From Page 24



From page 26

FY15 ILPenUndundedHistory


COMPREHENSIVE ANNUAL FINANCIAL REPORT for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2015

On page 100 (of the pdf) we fing that the average salary for active teachers in 2015 was $69,538

What’s driving Illinois’ $111 billion pension crisis

From the report:

  • The average career pensioner – retired after Jan. 1, 2013, with 30 years of service or more – receives $66,800 in annual pension benefits and will collect over $2 million in total benefits over the course of retirement.
  • The average career pensioner will get back his or her employee contributions after just two years in retirement. In all, pensioners’ direct employee contributions will only equal 6 percent of what they will receive in benefits over the course of their retirements.

IPI report career pensions

Comparing the average teacher salary of $69,538 in 2015 to the average current pension for those in TRS who retired after 1/1/2013 and had 30 years of creditable service, $73,300,  we see that recently retired teachers are paid more in retirement than those actively working.

Illinois Pension Reform: Three Wrongs Do Not Make a Right

Number 4 in its key points:

“Rather than reforming the system now with minimal discomfort, such delays threaten future taxpayers and pensioners with far more significant measures.”


Two CUSD 200 administrators Scammed the system. Did someone break the Law?

(updated 7/20/2015)

How, When, by whom were their end of career raises approved?

Were these raises legal?  If not, can the district recoup its money?  What about their pensions that are based on these raises?  Can they be clawed back?

The 2010 contract extension was signed by the board president, but never on an agenda for approval.  Was that legal?  For a discussion of why signing a contract without board approval is a crime see: College of DuPage – Former Chairmen Carlin and Birt complicit in the crime?


Read any letter-to-the-editor about Illinois public pensions and someone will chime in with a comment pointing out that teachers paid their fair share and that public pensions are guaranteed in the Illinois Constitution.  But, should pensions based on large end or career salary spikes be guaranteed?  How about those that exceeded their contracted amount; exceeded the limits set by Illinois law; and were hidden from the taxpayers who are responsible for paying the bill?


Over view

Wheaton-Warrenville, CUSD 200 had two administrators whose contracts (ending in 2009) called for 20% raise the last year worked. The contracts were extended to 2010 and 2011. They actually got 20%, 0, 6%, 6% the last four years. Personnel reports for the 2011 contract extensions exist, but nothing approving or even mentioning the pay increases or the 2010 contract extensions in any board packet, attachment or meeting minutes. These (we contend illegal raises for two individuals) resulted in $111,572 penalty paid by the district and increased the pensions for these two by approximately 20%.

Their original contracts 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% raise prior to her last year.  The 20% is a one year increase that was maintained the following year by cashing in sick/vacation days.  The two years at 6% were in the new contracts, but never made public at any open board meeting.  These 6% increases were based on “gross pay” rather than the typical “base pay” – Thus, resulting in the one-time 20% becoming part of the base pay.


Note: the school year runs from July 1, of one year to June 30 of the next.


Margo Sorrick’s title was “Assistant Superintendent for Educational Services, SSC”

Dr. Lori Belha’s title was “Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources, SSC”



The retirement clause from Dr. Margo Sorrick’s original 2004 to 2009 contract:

sorrick 04_09 retirement clause

Notice it says “Increase last year’s salary by 20%…”  That would be her last year worked.  Not 3 years prior to that, as actually happened based on her actual pay.


Lori Belha’s retirement clause from her original 2004 to 2009 contract reads the same.

belha retire clause 2004 to 2009


In Margo Sorrick’s retirement letter, she requests her 20% retirement benefit stating 2007 – 2008 school year, while acknowledging that would not be her last year worked.  She states that her current contract ends 2009, but she would like to extend the contract until June 30, 2010 or better yet 2011.  She notes that the district will not be assessed a penalty if they let her stay until 2010, but will pay one if the contract is extended to 2011.  She wrote “However, the penalty for District 200 is substantial and it is not my desire to burden the district with the consequences.”  But, she did burden the district.

In this letter, Ms. Sorrick requests the 20% end of career salary bump in the 2007-2008 school year.  She seams to acknowledge that this should be a one year bump as she states that she will cash in unused sick/vacation days to keep the same 20% for the 2008-2009 year.

sorrick retirement letter


Similarly, Lori Belha’s retirement letter requests her 20% retirement benefit stating July 1, 2007 and requests that her retirement date be extended.   She would like to work until June 30, 2011.  But, points out that “under TRS regulations the board may only extend the contract one year at a time.”  So she was requesting a retirement date of June 30, 2010.  Again she is requesting her 20% last year worked raise in the 2007-2008 school year, prior to her last year worked.

belha retirement letter

The 20% raises for both Belha and Sorrick took place in the 2007-2008 school year which began on July 1, 2007.  June 30, 2007 was the day superintendent Dr. Catalani retired.  Dr. Catalani had hired both Sorrick and Belha.  His three years in a row of 20% compounded raises had caused quite a stir in the community.   July 1, 2007 was Dr Drury’s first day on the job.    We have no way of knowing who approved the raises for the 2007-2008 school year.

The retirement letters were written in February 2007.  Both Belha’s and Sorrick’s new contracts with new end date (June 30, 2010) were signed by the board president on April 17, 2007. In each, the retirement section continues the plan from 2004-2009 multi-year plan.

In the Employment, Term and salary section they say “the Administrator shall be paid a 6% increase on the gross salary earned in the 2009-2010 contract year.”  The “Gross salary” includes any bonus or pay for cashed in sick/vacation days.   Most administrative contracts that I have seen mention percent increase over “base pay.”

sorrick 09-10 salaty clause

sorrick 09-10 retirement clause


Currently the web site has old meeting agenda with personnel reports, supplementary personnel reports and minutes attached going back to July 2006.  None of these mention Sorrick’s or Belha’s 2010 contract extension.  A single Board member has no authority to incur a debt without board approval!  Board of education president, Andrew Johnson signed this contract without board approval.  Did he break the law?



Margo Sorrick’s new contract with new end date (June 30, 2011) was signed by Dr. Sorick on December 5, 2008 and by the board president on December 17, 2008.  Belha signed hers December 9, 2008 and the board president signed on December 17, 2008.  Again the retirement section continues the plan from 2004-2009 multi-year plan.  The Employment, Term and salary section basically the same as the previous one (6% increase in gross pay)..

sorrick 10-11 salary clause

sorrick 10-11 retirement clause

This extension was covered in the supplemental personnel report, which was attached to the meeting agenda and approved as part of the Consent agenda on December 18, 2008.  While the document is attached to the 12-17-2008 agenda, the header in the document has “October 8, 2008.”

sup pers 12)17)2007 sorrick belha


From a recent FOIA, we have an explanation of how these employees justified their salaries.

A 2008 letter from Dr. Sorrick to Dr. Drury


Requests a contract extension to June 30, 2011.

It says “My current contract allowed for a district-paid 20% increase from my 06-07 salary for the 07-08 school year.  The contract allows for my salary to remain, stable for the 08-09 school year subject to my submission of a combination of vacation and sick days to constitute the 20% increase from my 06-07 school year.   Finally the current contract allows for a 6% increase over my 08-09 salary for the 09-10 salary.

I would like to ask for two considerations for the extension of this contract.

First of all, I would like to ask for a 6% increase for the additional year as allowed for by TRS.  Also, I would like to exchange my current benefit of Family Medical and Family Dental for a $10,000.00 annuity contribution by the District.


A 2010 letter from Dr. Belha to Dr. Harris


In her letter to Dr. Harris, Dr. Belha requests that the district pay her retirement benefit of up to 59 vacation days and 17 sick days.

She acknowledges that she used 45.3 sick/vacation days to pay for the second year of 20% retirement.  “This was not a cumulative raise but a match of the previous year salary.”  She mentions meeting with Dr. Drury to discuss “consideration” for the extended contracts with M. Sorrick as a witness.  (Drury had “resigned” due to differences with the board.  Harris had been superintendent for five months at this time).

She claimed to have a verbal agreement with Dr. Drury that she could continue accruing vacation and sick days to be cashed in at retirement.  She mentions the value of these disputed days ($35,820) and having legal counsel.


Note: there were multiple superintendents over this time period.  And one of these two retirees was the Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources who should oversee contracts,  retirement packages and payroll.

  • Dr. Catalani retired June 30, 2007
  • Dr. Drury was superintendent from July 2007 to October 2009.
  • Dr. Baker was interim Superintendent from October 2009 to June 2010.  And
  • Dr. Haris was superintendent from July 2010 to June 2014


Dr. Margo Sorrick – details

The penalty paid by CUSD 200 for excessive end of career raises for Dr. Sorrick was $57,548.82

Based on data from TRS, Sorrick’s starting pension ($149,044) as percent of her salary when she applied for retirement ($158,337 in 2007) is 93%


Year      Salary                  % increase

2006      149,006.59

2007      158,337.04         6.26%

2008      190,004.49         20.0%

2009      190,004.58         0%

2010      201,404.76         6.0%

2011      213,489.04         6.0%


  • Starting pension on 8/12/2011 was $12,420.36/month or $149,044.32 annually.
  • Current pension as of Feb. 2015 was $12,420.36/month or $149,044 annually. (no COLA yet)


  • Sorrick had 33.026 years of service credit plus 1.974 year for unused sick-leave credit (total 35)
  • Her service included 1.026 years purchased credit for private school service.
  • From TRS she received a $23,001.62 refund ($18,592.62 for “2.2 refund” and $4,409.00 for not using the early retirement option)
  • From CUSD 200, she received lump sum payments of $ $21,085.22 ($6,487.76 for 53.2 vacation days and $14,597.46 for 18 sick leave days)



For comparison, if the final end of career raises had been 0%, 0%, 0%, 20% as contracted

  • Her salary in 2007 to 2010 would all have been 158,337.04
  • In 2011 her salary would have been $161,503.78
  • Total salary paid by the district would have been $158,387.97 less
  • And her pension would be 80.1% of what it is. (Based on the percent difference in the average salary for the final four years worked).


These excessive raises cost the district $215,936.79 ($158,387.97 in excess salary and $57,548.82 in penalties).

It has been costing the TRS $29,697.75 per year retired so far (She has not received a COLA yet)

For four years that is $118,791.



Dr. Lori Belha – details

For Dr. Belha, the timeline is very similar to Sorrick’s.  Penalty for Belha due to excess salary increase cost the district $54,023.61.


Based on data from TRS, Belha’s starting pension ($145,647) as a percent of her salary when she applied for retirement ($156,728 in 2007) is 94%


Year      Salary                  % increase

2006      146,536.96

2007      156,728.15         6.95%

2008      185,673.81         18.47%

2009      185,673.90         0%

2010      196,814.24         6.0%

2011      208,623.10         6.0%


  • Starting pension on 8/1/2011 was $12,137.27/month or $145,647.24 annually.
  • Current pension as of Feb. 2015 is $13,457.41/month or $161,488.92 annually.


  • Belha had 37 years of service credit plus 1.97 year for unused sick-leave credit
  • Her service included 10 years purchased credit for out of system service.
  • From TRS, she received a $28,105 refund ($23,784.95 for “2.2 refund” and $4,320.21 for not using the early retirement option)

From CUSD 200, she received lump sum payments of $32,889.26 ($25,200 for 59 vacation days and $7688 for 18 sick leave days)



For comparison, if the final end of career raises had been 0%, 0%, 0%, 20%

  • Her salary in 2007 to 2010 would all have been 156,728.15
  • In 2011 her salary would have been $159,862.71
  • Total salary paid by the district would have been $146,737.89 less
  • And her pension would be 81.1% of what it is. (Based on the percent difference in the average salary for the final four years worked).


These excessive raises cost the district $200,761. ($146,737.89 in excess salary and $54,023.61 in penalties).

It has been costing the TRS $27,513 per year retired so far plus a 3% COLA (in 2015 it cost $30,506)

For four years that is approximately $116,038.



See our previous post on the same subject: