Illinois Teachers prepares for pension reform

As the Illinois General Assembly grapples with pension reform proposals, contingency plans already are under development by the Teachers’ Retirement System of the State of Illinois, Springfield.

With 366,000 members, the $37.5 billion pension fund faces enormous communication and operational challenges regardless of what specific changes are made to Illinois pension code.

At a Dec. 11 board meeting, David Urbanek, public information officer, told trustees that TRS member e-mail addresses are being collected, templates for print and online brochures designed, and FAQ sheets prepped.

The goal is to be able to explain changes to TRS members as soon as news becomes available.

Sally Sherman, director of member services, explained to trustees that her department dealt with 1,047 telephone calls, 131 e-mails and 58 in-person office consultations with TRS members in August alone. When pension reform finally is passed, the number of inquiries will skyrocket, Ms. Sherman said.

While “any pension code overhaul affecting member benefits and signed into law would be challenged in court … it would be irresponsible not to develop plans (now) for the administration of all potential changes,” a news release said.

Richard Ingram, TRS executive director, noted in the release that it will take at least a year for the retirement system to “gear up” for the operational changes.