City of Geneseo retirees want to rectify what they feel is an ethically wrong — and unconstitutional — change to their health insurance.

City of Geneseo retirees want to rectify what they feel is an ethically wrong — and unconstitutional — change to their health insurance.

In 2011, city aldermen voted to change the city’s personnel ordinance. The change required retirees to pay a greater share of their insurance costs starting Jan. 1, 2012.

Many of the retirees were initially told the city would pay 70 percent of their health insurance benefits, while the individual would be required to cover the remaining 30 percent. In a number of cases, the amount was agreed to in union contracts.

Retirees say the city also agreed to fund family insurance plans at the same percentage.

“Retirees are being hammered, especially if they still have children (on their plan),” said retired Geneseo police officer Tom Daily.

Daily said the reason the city was able to retain quality employees over the years was as a result of promised retirement packages.

He said some Geneseo police officers passed up the chance for higher wages or promotions at other departments. “We stuck it out for the benefits,” said Daily.

Among the past city employees are those who retired under FOP or IEBW union contracts.

“Illinois Supreme Court rulings have said it’s unconstitutional to violate those union contracts,” said Daily. “We just want to get what was promised to us or what we bargained for. The state says you can’t change a benefit package under contract.”

Retiree Tom Birmingham, who spent 25 years working for the city, said he’s seen his insurance costs increase from $240 a month to $600.

“I have it in writing from the city stating what my (retirement) benefits would be,” he said.

Retiree Arlyn Helke said he met with IMRF (Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund) officials prior to making a decision to retire.

“To have those figures suddenly change after I retired, well, I might have stayed and worked another five or 10 years had I known,” he said.

Geneseo city administrator Lisa Kotter said 36 city retirees are currently being paid some type of retirement insurance subsidy by the city. The amount paid by the city decreases once a retiree reaches Medicare age.

Retirees told the council they felt their next option would be to seek legal recourse.

“We don’t want to have to do that,” said Daily. “I love this town. We just want what was guaranteed and promised to us contractually. We want to go back to the system we had.”

In 2011, city officials said the economic climate necessitated the cuts.

But retirees disagree. “What money was saved was minor,” said Daily.

Approximately 10 retired city employees attended the Tuesday, July 14 city council meeting to voice their disapproval of the cuts.

“If we get what was promised, we’ll leave you alone,” Daily told the council.

Following the meeting, aldermen met in an executive session to discuss the issue.

Though the agenda stated the council might take action on the topic following their executive session, aldermen emerged two hours later with a request for more time.

Geneseo mayor Nadine Palmgren said city officials had requested more time to gather information. The issue will again be discussed in an executive session following the Tuesday, July 29 committee of the whole meeting.

Though the nature of an executive council meant neither the mayor nor the aldermen could talk publically about what issues were discussed, Palmgren told retirees the topic was “delved into in great depth.”