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U of I administrators looking to sweeten workers’ pensions

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014 1:15 a.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014 2:45 a.m. CDT

CHAMPAIGN (AP) – Administrators at the University of Illinois want the school’s trustees to consider extra pension funding for employees who are losing benefits under new state pension rules.

The university Board of Trustees’ Audit, Budget, Finance and Facilities Committee on Monday reviewed a resolution that directs administrators to look into alternatives to the state pension plan for employees.

“The highest priority of the university is to remain competitive in the higher education marketplace, to attract and retain the highest-quality faculty and staff,” said Vice President Walter Knorr, the U of I’s chief financial officer said.

The state pension overhaul that lawmakers approved last month cuts benefits for most employees and retirees. It has a June 1 effective date, but could be delayed because of legal challenges. It is meant to deal with Illinois’ massively underfunded pension system.

Avijit Ghosh, senior adviser to U of I President Robert Easter, said the university is calculating the cost of a matching retirement program.

“We have to make sure that we retain a retirement program that is competitive for our people,” Ghosh said.

The school’s three campuses are creating a task force to explore the issue. Officials hope to have a proposal ready for approval by the trustees’ board meeting in May. The school will seek advice from consultants, actuaries and lawyers, Knorr said, to “make sure we put together something that is feasible as well as legal.”

The U of I full Board of Trustees will vote on Monday’s resolution next week.

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