The Herald-News

Councilman's retirement boosts pension payout

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

JOLIET -- When City Councilman Anthony Uremovic made a surprise announcement about his retirement last month, he explained that he was spending more time out of town on research and on a consulting business. He didn't mention that retiring right away also meant he could get a better pension payout.

Uremovic said his pension from the city council has been estimated at about $9,000 a year.

The reason it paid for Uremovic to retire early is because the Illinois pension system allowed him to calculate his pension from the city council with another pension he would receive from Joliet Junior College, where he also recently retired as head of the economics department.

JJC pensions are with the State University Retirement System. But both the municipal and university retirement programs are part of the Illinois pension system. And state law allows pension benefits from the two programs to be considered together what is called a "reciprocal calculation."

Uremovic said he learned he would benefit from retiring from both positions at the same time from a representative of the university retirement plan.

"He did the reciprocal calculation and called me and said, 'It might be better for you to retire from the city council as well,'" Uremovic said. After talking with his wife, Uremovic said, "We decided maybe this is the right time."

But, he said, the pension impact was "only part of my decision." He said his position on the Political Science Advisory Board at the University of Illinois in Chicago is taking more time, although Uremovic also won't be working full-time at JJC anymore.

Uremovic would not say what his total pension payout is or the total impact of the reciprocal calculation.

"It does enlarge your pension," he said, then added, "I don't make state law. I follow it."

Participation by elected officials in the pension system, however, is not mandatory.

"An elected official has the option to participate," said Linda Horrell, communications manager for the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund.

City councils and village boards also have to approve participation in the system by elected officials. Those boards have to certify that the elected members work at least 600 hours a year.

In Joliet, City Council members also make $20,000 a year.
The mayor makes $35,000 a year. They also are eligible for lifetime health insurance from the city after serving two terms.

Ironically, at the same Aug. 17 meeting in which Uremovic announced his sudden retirement, fellow Councilman Timothy Brophy suggested that the council consider reducing its pay by 5 percent in light of the city's budget troubles.

Brophy did not suggest cuts in any other benefits but later said he would propose ending the lifetime health insurance for future council members.

"Everything should be on the table," Brophy said last week.

Brophy said he will bring up the topic again at the next city council meeting Tuesday but does not know how much support there will be for cuts in income and benefits.

"I have not had any conversations with fellow councilmen since then," he said. "I have talked with staff and asked them to be ready with data."