Pension plan affects faculty benefits, retirements

Blake Nash, Staff Reporter

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The Illinois legislature drafted the Automatic Annual Increase pension plan last December, which is expected go into effect Jan. 1, 2015.

When the plan is in effect, current Tier 1 retirees ages 40 and up will begin receiving 3 percent of the lesser of the total annuity payable at the time of the increase, including previously granted increases.

They can also receive $1,000 multiplied by the number of years of creditable service upon which the annuity is based.

Despite the release of the pension plan’s details, some faculty around campus remained confused while others have grown frustrated over because their colleagues chose to avoid the plan with by retiring early. One of those concerned faculty members about is Margaret Weaver, a math professor.

Weaver has taught at Eastern for nearly 20 years and become accustomed to the politics set forth by the state.

“I understand the new AAI’s basic idea, but as far as understanding all its details, I have limited knowledge about it,” Weaver said. “A lot of my colleagues have retired much earlier because of it, and that concerns me about my future here since I’m not ready to retire,” Weaver said.

The new pension plan will affect all faculty and staff on campus, from biological sciences and business to the economics department.

Peggy Manley, an administrative assistant in Booth Library who has worked at Eastern for 25 years, said she understood that the plan would change the retirement benefits for state employees.

“The promises made when we began working at Eastern would now change to less benefits,” Manley said. “One change already had occurred to annuitants resulting in a 2 percent assessment on their health insurance. This was met with strong opposition.”

Manley also said the plan had gone through lower courts and was deemed to be unconstitutional.

She said legislators stated previously that employees who had been working a certain period of time would not have changes to their health care, but now, they would be charged extra for it.

“A lot of people have chosen to get out in May in order to be assured they could retire under the right amount from what they were promised when they were hired,” Manley said.

If that were to be the case, the biological sciences department’s landscape may be very different in the next few years. That department has at least three professors nearing the pension plan’s annuity age limit who may be affected by it.

These three include professors Charles Pederson, Eric Bollinger and Steven Daniel.

When July 1 arrives, Tier 1 employees who retire on or after that date will not be eligible to receive certain increases based on their ages as of June 1.

The entire version of the Automatic Annual Increase can be found at http://www.surs.com/pdfs/legal/Pension-Reform-Summary-SB1.pdf.

Blake Nash can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]