Mayors from Danville to Skokie showed up in Chicago Thursday to support Mayor Rahm Emanuel's pension reform proposal.
Danville Mayor Scott Eisenhauer described a "frightening look at the future" if changes aren't made, and Lynwood Mayor Eugene Williams said smaller towns like his are impacted too.
"All of us are challenged," Williams said.
Emanuel this week testified before a House committee to propose changes to city pensions. He suggested increasing city workers' retirement age to 67, increasing employees' contribution over five years and suspending automatic cost-of-living adjustments, among other things.
If nothing is done, Emanuel said, Chicago taxes will skyrocket by 150 percent. Two days after his testimony, 26 local mayors backed him up.
“Municipal leaders across Illinois are struggling with the difficult and unique challenges they face with the broken pension systems in their villages, towns and cities,” said Emanuel. “Together, we urge the state legislature to act and pass meaningful reforms that will preserve retirement security for our employees and retirees and protect our taxpayers."
Emanuel's office points out Wilmette contributed $277,000 to its police pension fund in 2000 but paid $1.54 million 10 years later. In Danville about half the city's $6.6 million property tax revenue this year will go toward paying police and fire pensions.
“Reducing the skyrocketing costs of public safety pensions is the No. 1 issue for municipalities across Illinois,” Eisenhauer said. “Pension costs are overwhelming our budgets when we have already cut to the bone as a result of the recession."