Normal’s TOTAL debt

By: Diane Benjamin

From the Illinois Comptrollers website:

Bond debt and “Other” = $85,752,874

Note: The Town only paid off $2,205,000 the entire year. Keep in mind NO principal is being paid on some of the loans, just interest.

They forgot to say what “other” is: (did the same in 2019 and 2018)

Pensions – note the funding percentages, police and fire are in trouble, staff isn’t:

The three bottom numbers need added together: They total $95,892,551.

Keep in mind, the goal is 100% funding by 2040.

One more number needs added to the debt – Other Post Employment Benefits:

That’s another $45,153,369 to add to the debt.

Drumroll please:


I would hope somebody re-evaluates pensions before the “professional staff” decides to slam residents with high property tax increases. Much of the market has recovered losses that occurred since 3/31/2020.

Passing the Progressive Tax Amendment WILL NOT lower your property taxes. Pensions aren’t going away and only getting worse. The amendment that should have been on the ballot is pension reform.

OPEB debt is paid when incurred.

If Chris Koos is re-elected your debt and taxes will continue to go up. He isn’t done in Uptown. Obviously Uptown isn’t doing anything to lower taxes. He wants the underpass so the other side of the tracks can be developed.





14 thoughts on “Normal’s TOTAL debt

  1. After years of tax increases in the town of Normal, we are not seeing any improvement in our police and fire pensions. In fact, they’re getting worse and financial experts warn that once they fall below 50% funding there is little to no chance they will ever recover. We simply cannot tax our way out this problem. The IMRF accounts seem to be better preforming and they have benefited from mild reforms, but overall they’re part of a public pension debt in Illinois that last I checked was over $241 billion in debt and that was before the COVID pandemic.

    State and local elected officials have a lot of answering to do for this financial disaster and candidate debates that I’ve attended in the past don’t even ask the questions let alone hold people accountable. At the very least these plans need to be reformed by converting them to a 401K style defined contribution plan, but even that will require amending the state constitution. As things currently stand taxpayers are on the hook for funding the shortfall of a defined benefit plan. These benefits simply don’t exist outside of government. That’s because the private sector doesn’t have the luxury of raising property taxes to pour money down a black hole.

  2. Please add the loan/interest we are obligated to pay for the bond debt. Then we will know how much taxpayers will actually pay for the debt obligation.

    What will be missing still is the interest income being sacrificed for not fully funding the pensions and allowing them to grow with the market. Pensions are a guaranteed payout benefit amount. Taxpayers will make up for any loss due to the market or choice not to pay enough into the system while the employee was working.

    1. Council member Nord:

      Thank you for responding and helping people to get a clearer picture of the mess of Normal town finances and the even bigger mess of Illinois public pensions. The latter is a topic of widespread misunderstanding among the public. The town of Normal has made it a priority to reach a 100% funding level by the year 2040. This is in response to the state’s mandated 90% funding level by the year 2040. All of this on the surface seems like the noble and right thing to do, but the problem is very few of us understand the impossible scenario of funding a defined benefit plan as opposed to what most of us in the private sector are used to, a defined contribution 401K style plan. Even if Normal was adequately funding our pensions, a volatile market, as the charts on this page will clearly illustrate, make this goal impossible. In a worldwide pandemic the market has tanked and taxpayers are on the hook to fund the shortfall. Normal residents will be taxed out of their homes before we reach 90% funding, let alone 100%. The taxing madness has to stop in Normal. It simply and clearly is not working.

      Normal will have to seek other sources of funding besides a tax increase every year in order to survive this storm. But worse, I’m not sure this storm is survivable without drastic reform that our state legislature continually avoids. Problem is, in the town of Normal, when you start out this deep in debt, you don’t have many options left other than taxing us to death.

      I feel for our police and fire personnel. It’s not that Normal residents haven’t done our part. It’s that they’re in bad plans that desperately need reforming and political leaders who have ignored the gravity of their situation.

      Illinois does not need a progressive tax amendment on the ballot this fall. It needs a pension reform amendment on the ballot. But, I’m afraid even that is too late.

  3. Wow! Paying off just $2.2 million in debt, interest-only, while substantially decreasing pension funding. The Town has dug itself a hole that it will likely never emerge from without some serious sacrifice. I feel like Koos is the guy playing Monopoly who has mortgaged all his property, has no cash on hand, and is just hoping to go around the board to Pass Go without paying rent or fees. Guess what, COVID-19 is the hotel on Boardwalk and it’s time to pay up. Those municipalities that planned, saved resources, and were fiscally prudent will likely make it by with some modest adjustments. Normal may be at the point of no return.

  4. Years ago before Koos the old town nickname easily enough was “abNormal.” In financial reality Koos is defining a new reality of abNormal.

  5. The “other” is IEPA Loan Payables- “The Town has entered into an agreement with the IEPA to provide low interest financing for water improvements.” The Water Fund pays the principal and interest associated with this loan.

    OPEB liability consists of many things- the biggest driver in the increase is the changes in actuarial estimates for future liabilities. It’s not actually debt, it’s a long term liability. In FY 2020 almost all of the increase in the liability (increase of 15,532,479) came from “Changes of Assumptions or Other Inputs” at $14,794,329, actual benefits paid were $1,081,078.

    The pension problem is felt by many places, but from my understanding it stems from state legislation which the town has to follow- namely that there is a legal limit on the employee’s contribution, so the deficit has to be filled with tax dollars. Not necessarily the Town of Normal’s fault.

    1. Debt has to be paid in the future. How is future liabilities different? Note interest isn’t included, add 50% more for that. Normal is at fault every time they add an employee like they just did. That adds to pension debt and expenses.

    2. Council members in the past have misread state statutes, even gone as far as to read them at tax hearings justifying a tax increase by misstating that state statute gives them no other choice. There is absolutely nothing in state statute that mandates where the money to pay pensions comes from. What the statute says is that if there is no revenue to meet the pension obligation that municipality must raise a levy to fund the pensions. In other words, they must be funded and if the money isn’t there they must raise taxes.

      Time and again I’ve sat through tax hearings in Normal where this statute was misread as justification for raising property taxes. It’s a gross misunderstanding of the problem and the solution.

      Why prey tell would the town of Normal not have the money to adequately fund pension obligations? If readers of this site don’t know the answer, then they’re not paying very careful attention.

  6. Debt and liabilities are both IOU’s. Getting into an argument over semantics is strategy to take the spotlight off the issue at hand and deflect attention elsewhere. Don’t fall for these tactics.

    The town is absolutely at fault for choosing not to fully pay pension payments and spend within their current means. The town consciously choose to pay less than 100% as the employee was paid for their work and expects subsequent generations pay for it later. This is the proverbial “kicking the can” culture that “kicks” the problem for following generations to solve. Because the state did the same thing or the state allowed the town to “kick” problems does not make it right nor responsible. The state has pension and debt problems because of their irresponsibility, so does the town. The town and the state have spending problems. IL is one of the most fiscally irresponsible states in the nation. The town justifying their fiscal problems because the state does it is irresponsible. Neither the state or town have demonstrated they can spend within their means and they consistently raise taxes instead of tackling the root problem. Normal used to spend within their means, we can again. Until we elect enough elected representatives who accept these realities we won’t be able to fix the problems our generation is leaving for the following ones.

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