McHenry Mayor Sue Low Retiring

Sue Low

Sue Low

Before Jack Franks McHenry Town Hall Meeting began, I asked Mayor Sue Low if she were running for re-election.

Some may remember that a spectator urged the election of an alderman as he went past during the Fiesta Days Parade.

He yelled, “Vic Santi for Mayor.”

It appears he knew what he was talking about, because Low told me she was not running for re-election.

Her political career began in 2001 when she was elected Alderman.

When Mayor Pam Althoff was appointed to replace State Senator Dick Klemm upon his retirement, Low was elevated to the top position in McHenry city government.

She won election in 2005, 2009 and 2013.

Only in 2013 was she challenged.


McHenry Mayor Sue Low Retiring — 2 Comments

  1. 2001 was also the year of an legislative pension benefit hike that was an unfunded mandate on local municipalities.

    Although Jack Franks has said he has never voted for a tax hike, he has voted for unfunded state mandates which must be funded by local property taxpayers.

    Senate Bill 851 was signed into law February 1, 2001 as Public Act 91-0939 by Governor George Ryan.

    PA 91-0939 hiked the accrual rate from 2% (.02) to 2.5% (.025) for years of service 21 – 30 (a 10 year period).

    Previously: .02 x 10 years = .2 (20%).

    Now: .025 x 10 years = .25 (25%).

    The accrual rate for years 1 – 20 was already 2.5% per year, which is 50% (.025 x 20 years) after 20 years.

    The maximum 75% of final salary figure formula is achieved after year 30 years of service (30 x .025).

    So police can retire at 75% of the final salary figure formula after 30 years.

    There were other hikes in the law, including increases for duty disability annuitants.

    Most Downstate police pensions were already underfunded at the time of the hikes.

    The bill was unanimously approved by the House (114 yeas and 4 excused absences) including yea votes by State Representatives Jack Franks and Cal Skinner.

    Most Downstate police pensions due to salary and benefit hikes are now one of the biggest fiscal challenges facing most municipalities who participate in the Downstate Police Pension system.

    The McHenry Police Pension fund is severely underfunded.

    From 2005 to 2014, the Assets at actuarial value grew from $13M to $20M, a 54% increase.

    From 2005 to 2014, the unfunded liability grew from $8M to $18M, a 125% increase.

    Thus, unfunded liabilities are growing faster than assets in the McHenry police pension fund.

    That means the taxpayer IOU to the McHenry Police Pension Fund is growing.

    On a dollar basis, the taxpayer IOU has grown substantially.


    Illinois Department of Insurance

    Illinois Public Pension Division

    2015 Biennial report (the report is issued every 2 years)

    The measurement date was April 30, 2014.

    The report is dated October 1, 2015


    Rather than hiking benefits, the benefits should have been frozen, until the plans were fully funded.

    It makes no sense to hike benefits to pensions that are already underfunded.

    Mayors should have been screaming to newspaper reporters and editors and taxpayers about this problem, but the taxpayer heard hardly a word.

    Complaints to taxpayers were typically minimized.

    All the salary hikes over the years should have been kept to a minimum when pensions are underfunded.

    Instead, collective bargaining law does not mandate that pension funding be considered when hiking salaries.

    The lack of such a law is hostile to taxpayers.

    The municipalities could have such a policy absent of a law, but have never heard of or seen such a written policy.

    To add to the problem, collective bargaining change documents are not mandated by state law to be posted on taxing district websites.

    A collective bargaining change document would for example have underline text for additions and stricken text for deletions, so taxpayers could easily identify all changes in the agreement.

    Obviously the negotiators know about the changes.

    Amazingly, all the changes in a collective bargaining agreement are sometimes not presented to all board members who vote on the agreement.

    In fact, many times the board will approve a tentative agreement, and all board members are often not aware of all changes in the tentative agreement.

    So when the changes are made to the tentative agreement, how could such board members compare the two agreements…they can’t because they can’t identify all the changes in the tentative agreement.

    The process if not well documented now and it won’t be until there is a law demanding such.

    There are very identifiable reasons we are in this mess.

    Major lack of transparency and accountability make it nearly impossible for the taxpayer to make headway.

  2. Here’s a huge problem with the accrual rate benefit hike (unfunded state legislative mandate on local municipalities) listed above.

    Per one sentence added to the Illinois State Constitution on December 15, 1970, that benefit hike is contractual and cannot be diminished or impaired.

    That has been interpreted by the Illinois Supreme Court to mean any police employee contributing to a Downstate Police pension fund (as opposed to Chicago Police or IMRF) at the time of the hike, or employed after the hike, is eligible for that hike (provided they work 21 years or more), and that benefit hike stays in effect until the employee dies (unless the pension is revoked due to a felony conviction related to the job).

    The only exception would be if the benefit (in this case accrual rate hike) was changed for future employees.

    An example of that follows.


    First, Senate Bill 1650 (SB 1650) was signed on January 25, 1993 by Republican Governor Jim Edgar into Public Act 87-1265 (PA 87-1265).

    This was a 3% compound COLA for Downstate Police, among other benefit hikes.


    The 3% Compound COLA for Downstate Police was in effect for 18 years, from 1993 through 2010.

    But once eligible the COLA hike stays with the employee until death.


    For example:

    – a 20 year old police officer begins their career on December 31, 2010

    – retires after 30 years of service at age 50 in year 2040

    – dies at age 85 in year 2075

    – property taxpayers are on the hook for 35 years of Compound COLA from year 2040 to year 2075.


    The compound COLA hike was reformed for employees beginning their career on January 1, 2011 or after with Senate Bill 3538 (SB 3538) in Public Act 96-1495 (PA 96-1495) signed by Democrat Governor Pat Quinn on January 14, 2011.

    This was Tier II benefits for Downstate Police and Downstate Fire.

    For such employees:

    – cost-of-living adjustments begin the year after a retiree (or survivor) turns age 60

    – annual increases equal the lesser of 3% simple or 1/2 of CPI-U

    Jack Franks and all the McHenry County legislators voted for SB 3538 in the 96th General Assembly in 2011.

    Who in the State House voted against that pension reform?

    – Edward Acevedo, Democrat, Chicago

    – Mike Boland, Democrat, Moline

    – Mike Bost, Republican, Carbondale

    – John Bradley, Democrat, Marion

    – Dan Burke, Democrat, Chicago

    – John Cavaletto, Republican, Salem (Marion County)

    – Shane Cultra, Republican, Onarga (Iroquois County)

    – Robert Flider, Democrat, Decatur

    – Paul Froelich, Democrat, Schaumburg

    – Careen Gordon, Democrat, Coal City (Grundy County)

    – Jay Hoffman, Democrat, Collinsville (Madison County, St Clair County)

    – Michael McAuliffe, Republican, Chicago (he was on the police and fire pension reform committee, and the personnel and pensions committee)

    – Susana Mendoza, Democrat, Chicago (current City Clerk of Chicago and running for State Comptroller v Leslie Munger, election November 8, 2016).

    – Bill Mitchell, Republican, Decatur

    – Brandon Phelps, Democrat, Harrisburg (Saline County)

    – David Reis, Republican, Olney (Richland County)

    – Angelo Saviano, Republican, Elmwood Park

    – Ron Stephens, Republican, Highland (Madison County)

    – Michael Madigan, Democrat, Chicago, no vote (did not vote)

    – Lisa Dugan, Democrat, Kankakee, excused absence

    – Sidney Mathias, Republican, Arlington Heights, excused absence

    – Rosemary Mulligan, Republican, Park Ridge, excused absence

    – Richard Myers, Republican, Macomb, excused absence

    – 95 yeas, 18 nays, 0 present, 1 no vote, 4 excused

    – 10 Democrats and 8 Republicans voted nay.


    With a 3% compounded COLA the original pension doubles in about 23 years.

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