Archive for October 12th, 2019

Niles Fire Department news

Excerpts from the

When people call 911 for ambulance service in Niles, their insurance company is charged a fee. Officials are considering increasing those fees to insurance companies after a proposal to set a flat $1,500 charge for paramedic ambulance service within the village.

Currently there is a tiered system for billing Niles residents versus non-residents with differing charges for basic life support, advanced life support.  Charges range from $500 for basic life support for a Niles resident to a $1,150 charge for advanced life support for a non resident. All vehicles responding to medical calls in Niles are considered top advanced life support, making a tiered system outdated.

Most North and Northwest suburban communities are now charging insurers $1,500 for all ambulance calls. The proposed change would bring Niles in line with those other communities. The proposal would include balanced billing, meaning that if the insurance company pays less than the entire amount, the village would accept the insurers payment and would not bill the patient for the difference. Under the proposal, charges would apply to Niles patients even if they were treated and transported by paramedics from another fire department responding to Niles as part of local mutual aid agreements.

Asked about charges for a non-insured patient who is transported by firefighters, the fire chief said, “It goes to billing. Each person would be looked at individually. The village can walk away (from collecting a bill), but it’s a process worked out with the billing company.”

The proposal may also need finance committee review before it is brought to trustees at a village board meeting for a final vote.

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Harvard Fire Protection District news

Excerpts from the

After the departure of the Harvard Fire Protection District administrative assistant, the board of trustees is considering a partnership with a public accounting firm to perform administrative and financial services.

They received a presentation from Lauterbach and Amen LLP – which provides administrative services for the Algonquin-Lake in the Hills Fire Protection District, the Cary Police Pension Fund board, and Crystal Lake Fire Department. Before the board moved forward with hiring an administrative assistant, they wanted to explore the firm’s services to see if it could improve some of the weaknesses in the district’s system. For $700 a month, the firm would prepare board meeting agendas and packets for trustees, transcribe meeting minutes, maintain the district’s digital records while making arrangements for the potential destruction of paper copies of files plus maintaining the district’s website. For an extra $100 a month, a representative would be in attendance for board meetings. The firm also could provide financial services to the fire district, such as budget assistance, audit preparation and tax levy documentation.

Fees for financial services generally are between $1,000 and $1,500 a month but the firm would have to determine how many bills the fire protection district pays a month and what software is used before it can come up with an exact number.


Illinois fire service news

Excerpts from the

Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Thursday unveiled a plan to merge roughly 650 local pension funds for suburban and downstate police officers and firefighters into two statewide funds in an effort to narrow a widening funding gap and ease the property tax burden on homeowners. The idea of consolidating the public safety pension funds — which together have roughly $11.5 billion in unfunded liabilities — is not new, but many previous attempts have failed to gain traction in the General Assembly as police and firefighter unions and other interests have pushed to retain local control. The governor is now calling on lawmakers to take swift action to require the funds to combine under a plan recommended by a task force he assembled shortly after taking office in January.

According to the 22-page report, each day the funds remain separate, they collectively forfeit nearly $1 million in potential investment returns, … forcing most municipalities to rely on a never-ending cycle of increasing local property taxes or cutting services to meet their pension obligations … that’s a hole that these funds are digging deeper every year, and then municipalities have to ask taxpayers to fill the hole.”

If the funds were to perform similarly to larger Illinois pension plans over the next five years, it would mean additional investment returns of $820 million to $2.5 billion over the next five years, according to the report, which cites a state Department of Insurance analysis.

Under the plan, there would be separate statewide funds for police officers and firefighters, each managed by an eight-member board with equal representation of municipalities and police officers or firefighters. Each police or fire department would maintain a separate account within the funds, and the money would be held in a pair of trusts separate from the state treasury. Assets and liabilities would not be shifted from one municipality’s plan to another. But the funds would be able to pool their assets for investment purposes and cut down on administrative fees currently paid separately by each local fund.

The plan has picked up a key backer in the state’s firefighters union. But winning support for such a monumental change over the next month won’t be an easy task, and consolidation will face strong pushback from police unions and a statewide association that represents trustees of the existing funds.

Not dealt with in the report are $134 billion in unfunded liabilities in statewide retirement systems covering teachers, university employees, state workers, legislators and judges; and Chicago’s nearly $30 billion in unfunded liabilities across four funds.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot at one point had floated the idea of Chicago being part of a consolidation, but her latest legislative asks don’t include that idea. Pritzker said examining the potential benefits of consolidating the state and city funds will be among the next jobs for the task force, though the report says consolidation would not achieve material improvement of their investment returns for the much larger funds.

Over the past decade, the annual investment returns reaped by the suburban and downstate police and fire funds, on average, have been about 2 percentage points lower than those of the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund, which has more than 429,000 members across 3,000 units of local government, excluding Chicago. IMRF — the state’s best-funded public pension fund — is a model for the proposed consolidation.

Opponents of consolidation have argued for the importance of local control and pushed for fewer restrictions on how small funds invest their money. Given the opposition to pension fund consolidation, the task force found mandatory consolidation would be the sensible approach. Better performing plans would perform at least as well in the long term under a consolidated model, while the worst performing plans would perform substantially better.

The new statewide police fund would have $8.7 billion in assets while the firefighter fund would have roughly $6.3 billion. Currently, 65% of the local funds have less than $20 million in assets and 44% have less than $10 million, which creates limitations on the types of investments available to them.

Collectively, the existing funds have enough assets to cover only 55% of liabilities, far short of the state-mandated target of 90% funding by 2040 and a figure that has dropped since it was at nearly 63% before the Great Recession, according to a report. In all, the funds — which are required for any town with at least 5,000 residents and one full-time police officer or firefighter — cover about 20,000 police and 14,000 fire department employees and retirees.

The task force is also proposing a costly series of changes for police and fire pensioners hired after 2011, in response to concerns that the current setup may violate federal rules for workers who are exempt from Social Security that would reinstate surviving spouse benefits for that group of police officers and firefighters, increase their pensionable salary cap and amend their final average salary calculation. The report estimates these changes to suburban and downstate plans would offset between $70 million and $95 million of the projected $820 million to $2.5 billion in investment return gains over a five-year period.

The task force also will continue to look at whether even more money could be saved by centralizing the administration of benefits rather than leaving that in the hands of the local pension boards.

The report acknowledges initial costs for transitioning assets into the consolidated pool, but said that would be substantially less than the upside from stronger investment returns over a matter of a few years.

thanks Asher


Calumet City and Homewood fire department news

Excerpts from the

A $565,000 grant awarded to the Calumet City Fire Department will pay for hiring additional firefighters, as will a grant of $537,000 to the Homewood Fire Department. The grants are part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Assistance to Firefighters Grant program.

A grant of just under $27,000 to South Chicago Heights will be used for a community risk reduction assessment that can be stored online for access by firefighters.

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