CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT: At 96.7% funded, with approximately $34 billion in assets, the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund (IMRF) serves more than 2,900 units of government, covering 175,000 active employees and 107,000 retirees. Enrollment in the plan is mandatory for local employees, who are expected to work sufficient hours—600 to 1,000 per year. The average member defers 4.5%, and employer contributions are based on individual actuarial analyses that are conducted annually and vary as each unit of government must pay to fund the retirement benefits of its employees.
Given that the average employer contribution across the state stands at 12.85%, IMRF boasts participation at roughly 100% and average plan contributions above 17%. Where can the retirement system go from there? According to IMRF Executive Director Louis Kosiba, in Oak Brook, Illinois, “Whether you’re well-funded or poorly funded, the one thing you can do is always make sure you provide excellent customer service.”
Of the challenges IMRF faces, Kosiba says, “We recognize that the long-term lowest cost to taxpayers is if we’re 100% funded, so we’re always working to get back to 100%.” Customer service is not always top of mind for plan sponsors; however, Kosiba credits attention to member needs—and “an independent board of directors that follows sound actuarial principles”—as key to IMRF’s success. “Illinois has some very underfunded retirement systems,” he says, noting that the five state-funded programs are about $111 billion underfunded. “That’s creating financial hardship with respect to the state budget.”
Still, Kosiba says, the system is “always looking” for areas for improvement, pursuing its vision “to provide the highest-quality retirement services to our members, their beneficiaries and their employers.” IMRF launched its new website and logo on February 2 and is implementing a new imaging system that will be more highly integrated with the fund’s computer systems.
Available within the next 24 months will be a “completely new system to process our benefits and process data from our employers,” he adds.
Kosiba says, IMRF hopes to develop a “virtuous cycle” wherein small changes can lead to major benefits in employers’ and employees’ lives.
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