On Nov. 2, Brookfield voters will be asked to vote on the following referendum: “Shall the Illinois General Assembly and Governor take immediate steps to implement meaningful public safety pension reform which will relieve the extensive burden on local taxpayers now that the General Assembly and Governor have reformed the pension systems for all other public employees?”

We are well aware of the economic crisis which everyone is suffering through, but we ask you to consider the following before you cast your vote:

Illinois is experiencing a self-made pension crisis for many state pension funds. As the Governor’s Pension Commission found in 2005, “Over the past 30 years, the state has funded pensions significantly below necessary contribution levels each year, and has added pension benefits without sufficient dollars set aside to pay for these benefits. The combination of these factors has caused the retirement systems to be in a severely underfunded position.”

While it is true that many state of Illinois pension funds are severely underfunded, the Brookfield Police Pension Fund and Brookfield Fire Fighter Pension Funds have striven to build reserves. Even in the difficult economy of 2009, almost one-third of the pension fund’s revenue came from investment income.

Our retirees survive on modest pensions based on salary only. Pension “spikes” are illegal under our governing laws. Car allowances and unused vacation time is not allowed when computing pensions, unlike the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund (IMRF) pensions. The average police pension is $3,700 monthly after taxes and health insurance.

Our employees contribute almost 10 percent of their salary to their pension, which is more than most public pension systems. We do not receive Social Security benefits and the village does not contribute on our behalf. Nor are we a drain on that system when we retire.

In 1993 the Illinois Municipal League (IML) sponsored a bill to change funding method of downstate fire and police pension funds from a level dollar amount to a level percentage of salary. This legislation was opposed by both the police and firefighters. The Illinois Professional Firefighters Association filed a friend-of-the-court brief stating that the change would cause an increase in the unfounded liabilities in 15 to 20 years.

The change in the method of funding was argued to cause an increase of excess of 300 percent in the unfunded liabilities if all conditions remained perfect. The decline in the economy created a higher and more rapid under-funding. This compounding has caused the underfunding to skyrocket, and that has become a burden that the municipalities now want the public safety officers and the state to bail them out of. (source: IPFA)

Please consider the above before casting your vote. Our pension funds, which have been in existence for over 60 years, are regulated by Illinois law. These are Brookfield funds, not Illinois funds and should not be lumped in with other troubled state pensions.

This referendum mentions no concrete reforms, and no one knows what the end result will be. It is interesting that the Illinois reforms passed early this year affect only employees hired after Jan. 1, 2011. Our legislator and other “fat cat” pensions are safe. A two-tier system breeds division between employees. Why should two employees receive different benefits for doing the same job?

Mark Duffek, a Brookfield firefighter, is president of the Brookfield Fire Fighter Pension Board. Jeff Leh, retired Brookfield deputy police chief, is president of the Brookfield Police Pension Board. Both are Brookfield residents.