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  #1721  
Old 12-10-2017, 07:42 PM
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MISSOURI
UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI
http://www.columbiatribune.com/news/...eds-more-money
Quote:
University of Missouri pension plan needs more money


Spoiler:
ST. LOUIS – The University of Missouri pension plan will need an extra $17.9 million annually to maintain its financial health, even with a prediction that employee pay hikes will be smaller in the future, according to a report presented Thursday to the Board of Curators.

The report is based on an analysis done a year earlier than scheduled because of ongoing UM System financial difficulties. The board voted to lower the expected rate of return on investments in September and on Thursday accepted a recommendation that it lower expectations for future wage inflation.

As a result of those and other changes, the unfunded liability — the amount needed to pay all current and promised future benefits — increased by $244.3 million, to $703.6 million.

The changes were approved a day before the board is scheduled to discuss a consultant’s recommendations for up to $70 million in administrative savings over the next three years, including a reduction of up to $30.4 million in the cost of employee benefits.

The cost savings aren’t intended to offset the need to spend more on pensions, UM System Chief Financial Officer Ryan Rapp said. The increase in pension costs will be included in the budget for the coming fiscal year, he said, while the benefit savings will only be determined after a process to determine which items are most important to employees.

The first place to look for savings in benefits is the way plans are operated, he said.

“There are some things we can do in how we administer our plans that may still allow us to offer the same level of benefits we have today,” Rapp said.

In 2012, the curators changed the pension system so new employees receive only 1 percent of pay per year of service, compared to 2.2 percent per year for those hired earlier. Early this year, the board cut support for retiree health insurance for many employees who are on the payroll after Jan. 1.

Any further changes in benefits must be considered very carefully, Rapp said.


“If you approach this ham-handedly, and you just go cut benefits, you may get the financial savings you need but you create another problem in that you are no longer competitive in recruitment and retention,” Rapp said.

The board also approved a new benefit Thursday that could produce cost savings. The university will cut back on operations during the week between Christmas and New Year’s and employees who must work during that period will receive an equal amount of leave to use at other times in the year. The new policy does not apply to employees of MU Health Care.

“Our faculty and staff are our most valuable assets, and I am pleased that we can offer these expanded benefits,” MU Chancellor Alexander Cartwright wrote in an email to employees sent after the board vote. The new policy will be in effect for this year’s holiday period.

The board also voted to create a shared leave program so employees can donate unused time to fellow workers who experience catastrophic events and expanded the availability of tuition discounts for employees, spouses and dependents. Instead of requiring employees to have five years of experience at the university, the benefit will be available after one year of full-time work and will continue for spouses or dependents after the retirement or death of the employee.

In other action Thursday, the board discussed whether to name a residence hall after Lucile Bluford, a woman denied admittance to the Journalism School’s graduate program 11 times because she was black. After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1941 that the school must admit her because no other equal program existed in the state, the graduate program was shut down. Bluford became editor and publisher of the Kansas City Call and was awarded an honorary degree in 1989.

Bluford died in 2003. Curator Darryl Chatman, who reported to the board on discussions of the naming issue, said there is no opposition to Bluford.

“Lucile Bluford is what the majority of people wanted,” Chatman said.


The board spent most of Thursday morning talking about itself and its role leading the system. President Mun Choi has been working to streamline operations and centralize some functions, a project that will receive a fuller discussion when the board hears the consultant’s report Friday.

The system’s role and the role of each campus is “something I am struggling with,” Choi said.

There is a lack of coordination in student information and human resources that is hurting operations, he said. Each campus acts as an independent member of a confederation rather than a piece of a system, he said.

“We have a system where it is easier to transfer credits from Columbia College to UMSL than it is to transfer credits from UMSL to” Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla, Choi said.

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Old 12-10-2017, 07:42 PM
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NEW JERSEY
https://burypensions.wordpress.com/2...w-he-tells-us/
Quote:
Now He Tells Us
Spoiler:
A few weeks before he starts whatever gig Fox has available:

[video at link]
.


.
This was at the rollout of the New Jersey Pension and Health Benefit Study Commission’s final report which, in part, enabled this delusion-of-competence addict with lines like:
Quote:
An additional positive development has been the dedication of the State lottery to the pension plans. This has reduced the unfunded liability by $13.5 billion and will generate over $1billion annually to pension funding. This, in turn, has improved the State’s overall reported statutory funded ratio from 45% to 59%. (pages 1-2)
That any credentialed actuary would sign on to these lies (the line above and Christie’s assertion that the funding ratio is much better now than when he came in) without fear of censure speaks only to the ineffectuality of the ABCD process. They are belied in both the footnotes to the Commission’s report and what New Jersey is telling bond investors.
Quote:
Footnote 2: This figure, $89.6 billion as of June 2017, after the liabilities of local PERS and PFRS are removed, reflects both the lottery dedication, id. at I-53, and an adjustment in the State’s GASB 67 calculation. Without the lottery dedication and calculation adjustment, the GASB 67 figure would be $117.9 billion. Id. at I-61.
Footnote 5: See Bond Disclosure at I-58. The annual required contribution to the pension funds (ARC) is not determined by GASB, but by a State statute which defines a separate statutory ARC, funded ratio and unfunded liability. Due to different assumptions, the statutory figures make the plans look healthier than GASB figures. For example, as of July 2016, TPAF, the teachers’ pension fund, has a 47% statutory funded ratio and $30.7 billion statutory unfunded liability, but a 22.3% funded ratio and $79 billion unfunded liability under GASB.
From 9/27/17 Bond Issue Official Statement:
Page I-58:

Page I-63:

Page I-51:


https://burypensions.wordpress.com/2...e-tells-us-ii/
Quote:
Now He Tells Us II
Spoiler:
Quote:
Do not rely on influencing a paper’s editorial board. They will be cautious at best to support anything that challenges those who benefit from the status quo.
Becoming a Citizen Activist – page 92
The Star Ledger received its last Pulitzer Prize in 2005 for their coverage of the resignation of then-governor James McGreevey in the wake of a sordid scandal. That coverage might never have occurred had there been a little investigative journalism practiced regarding those sordid acts at the time.
Perhaps the next Pulitzer lies in chronicling the implosion of the retirement system for public employees after years of mindlessly printing consolatory official pronouncements on the health of the plans (either now or by 2047). With the rollout of the New Jersey Pension and Health Benefit Study Commission’s final report this week we got Chris Christie sounding the alarm. Today we got the Star Ledger Editorial Board chiming in:
Quote:
We can’t afford to give retiring police chiefs $500,000 in unused sick pay. We can’t afford to provide health coverage that would qualify as “platinum-plus” under Obamacare. And we can’t afford old-style pension plans that were abandoned in the private sector decades ago.
So where was the coverage when the rules and contracts resulting in these benefits were being put in place?
Quote:
My biggest fear about our next governor, Phil Murphy, is that he doesn’t seem to get this. He ran from this reality during the campaign, and instead made the public worker unions his closest allies. He’s ignoring the math.
And who gave Murphy that accountability pass?
Quote:
As for Christie, he didn’t solve this problem. When he signed a bill to cut benefits in 2011, he broke his promise to ramp up to full pension payments over a seven-year stretch. New Jersey’s fiscal crisis remains among the worst in the nation by any measure. In the respected Mercatus Center’s ranking, we are dead last. Still, I give Christie great credit. We’d be in much worse shape without the 2011 reforms. And the broken promise is overblown: Instead of reaching full payment over 7 years, we are on track to reach that goal in 10 years. Christie put more money into the pension funds than all the governors before him combined, going back to Gov. James Florio.
A combination of na´vetÚ (of course Christie made everything much worse with his politics-first mindset) and gratitude (for failing to cut his salary).
Quote:
I’m terrified. I’m selling my house in the spring, and I’m thinking about packing a suitcase full of essentials and leaving it by the door.
Sorry to lose you…..for the taxes.
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Old 12-10-2017, 07:42 PM
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Mary Pat Campbell
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PENNSYLVANIA
SCHOOLS
http://www.pennlive.com/politics/ind...l_still_e.html
Quote:
Pa. school pension costs: Still exhorbitant, but leveling off
Spoiler:
Pennsylvania taxpayers can expect to pay about $200 million more in fiscal 2018-19 for school teacher pensions. Or, a record $4.6 billion between state and local tax-funded contributions.

That's the bad news. The long-term hangover, if you will, from the ill-conceived 2001 benefit increases approved by the General Assembly and then-Gov. Tom Ridge.

The silver lining?

It could have been worse.

Public School Employees Retirement System trustees learned Friday that a strong 10.14 percent return on investments in 2016-17 allowed it to fix the so-called employer contribution rate at 33.43 percent of payroll.

Earlier projections had the rate rising above 34 percent.

The 2.6 percent increase from current-year levels (32.57 percent), will also be the smallest increase in what's been a rock-climb of pension costs since the 2009-10 fiscal year.

"These pension costs are still very high and districts will still have some challenges meeting those obligations," said Steve Robinson, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania School Boards Association.

But he said there is a glimmer of hope that, if the strong investment returns continue to stack up, the eventual peak in costs will be smaller and arrive sooner.

The rate set Friday will apply to school budgets for the 2018-19 school year.


PSERS Executive Director Glen Grell also noted 2018-19 will mark the third straight year of a new normal, in which the state is paying 100 percent of what actuaries say is needed to keep the system solvent.

PSERS officials said the investment growth added approximately $5 billion to the retirement system's market value this past year. Employee contributions - payroll deductions averaging 7.54 percent of salary - added another $1 billion.
CRIMINAL OFFICIALS

http://cumberlink.com/news/local/cap...7d4c025b1.html
Quote:
$245,000 yearly pension plus $1.3 million more for convicted former lawmaker
Spoiler:
HARRISBURG — The Capitol tree was lit at noon on Friday in the Rotunda.

Santa Claus made an appearance.

But Christmas came early for former state Sen. Bob Mellow. His $245,000-a-year pension was reinstated despite a federal conviction for “conspiracy to commit an offense and to defraud the United States.”

The outrage has united Democrats and Republicans.

“That’s too much,” Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf said. “That shouldn’t happen.”

“I just think the taxpayers of Pennsylvania should be furious,” said Sen. John DiSanto, R-Dauphin.

DiSanto’s bill, Senate Bill 611, would close the loophole that allowed Mellow to cash in. Only certain crimes trigger pension forfeiture in the state and though Mellow admitted to committing those, he actually pleaded guilty to a different federal charge that created wiggle room under state law.

Sen. Chuck McIlhinney, R-Bucks, who is on the pension board and voted to reinstate Mellow’s pension, said he hated to do it but was advised by the board’s lawyers that Mellow would sue and win if his appeal was rejected, and that would cost taxpayers even more money.


DiSanto’s bill would yank all pensions for any on-the-job felony.

“I think it’s sorely needed because Mellow is just the latest in a long list of examples where this has happened,” DiSanto said, adding that he called Senate leadership this week asking them to make his bill a priority.

“Everybody knows it’s wrong,” said Capitol watchdog Eric Epstein of Rock the Capital. “The problem is the Legislature doesn’t have the cajones to fix the loophole that currently exists.”

Epstein says that lawmakers have been aware of the problem for years. “The reason the loophole has not been closed is there’s a lot of people profiting from going through the loophole.”

That nearly quarter-of-a-million-dollar-a-year pension won’t be the only thing under Mellow’s tree. ABC27 confirmed he’ll be paid for the 66 months his pension was suspended. It’ll be a lump sum of at least $1.3 million.

“That’s obscene,” Epstein said. “What it says is that crime not only pays in Pennsylvania but it pays with compound interest.”

Pension changes enacted in 2010 don’t allow anyone to earn a pension that’s greater than their actual salary. But everyone in the system prior to that year may still pull off the feat.

http://wesa.fm/post/pension-forfeitu...pport#stream/0

Quote:
Pension Forfeiture Expansion Garners Wave Of Support
Spoiler:
A bill to expand Pennsylvania's pension forfeiture laws is gaining traction after stalling out last legislative session.

In large part, the movement is thanks to a controversial, high-profile appeal in which a convicted former lawmaker was given his pension back.

Robert Mellow, a former Democratic state Senator, lost his more than $245,000-a-year retirement income after pleading guilty to felony corruption in 2012.

But he appealed, and now he has the money back.

In a 6-5 vote, the State Employee Retirement System board decided his offense didn't fit the crimes prescribed in Act 140, the state's current pension forfeiture law.

That's because the law only demands pensions be forfeited if a state employee commits one of a list of specific state crimes related to their job. If the crime is federal, according to the examiner at Mellow's hearing, "a comparison of the applicable burdens of proof...and elements of the crime must support a finding that the two statutes are substantially the same."

Representative Scott Petri, a Bucks County Republican, says that's the problem with the law--it allows too many ways out.

"Many times, prosecutors and defense attorneys are having defendants plead to crimes that aren't on the current list." He said. "The typical one is conflict of interest."

He added, "we can think of many instances where people have been convicted of serious misuse of government trust of funds, but they still receive their pensions."

Petri is sponsoring a bill that would require pension forfeiture if a state worker is convicted of any crime related to their job--state or federal.

It stalled in the Senate last session, but has passed the House twice.

Petri said this time he's fairly sure the Senate will approve it and get it to Governor Tom Wolf's desk before the end of the year.

Wolf supports the bill, and has urged the legislature to send it to him.
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Old 12-10-2017, 07:42 PM
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SOUTH CAROLINA
https://www.postandcourier.com/opini...1062aecfc.html
Quote:
S.C. can't risk abandoning employee pensions

Spoiler:
There is somewhat of a rush to judgment about how best to reform the state retirement systems, with a heavy bias toward replacing defined-benefit pensions with individual 401(k)-type programs. There are many factors to consider, including the important viewpoints of the impacted employees.

Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, recently wrote: “The public-employee pension system is turning out to be a classic case of concentrated benefits and dispersed costs, a phenomenon which favors recipients of government payments at the expense of the average taxpayer.”

This theme ignores a fundamental reality. Pension system employees certainly benefit in the current system, but they also contribute — twice! First, through their payroll contributions, and then with their tax dollars.


Yes, public employees are taxpayers, too. And most fall within Sen. Davis’ category of “average taxpayer.”

Consider that each “public employee — average taxpayer” pays 9 percent of salary, as of July 1, to his/her pension account. Police officers and firefighters now pay 9.75 percent, an assessment that has been increased three times since 2015.

Local government employers must now pay more, too, and this is the “taxpayer” contribution. For a typical employee, the employer assessment is 13.56 percent of salary. For police officers and firefighters, the employers must pay 16.24 percent of salary. This employer contribution will rise 1 percent per year for the next five years.

With so many increases, take-home pay for public employees has declined. Taxpayer burdens have grown. And the average state retirement pension in South Carolina remains around $20,000 a year.

Yes, the system is broken and must be fixed and steps are being taken. The path forward should be paved with equity for the public employees-taxpayers.

Gov. McMaster in an April 22 Post and Courier article noted “the [pension] systems plans around the country that are working well have the employees and the taxpayers paying roughly the same amount, or certainly the taxpayers do not pay more than the employers.” Sen. Davis also makes this point in his recent opinion article: “A fair rule of thumb would be that government workers should contribute at least as much toward their retirement as taxpayers.”

However, according to a recent Wall Street Journal article, the top 10 pension funds have only two evenly matching contribution formulas, Wisconsin (ranked No. 2) at 6.7 percent and South Dakota (ranked No. 1) at 6 percent. The seven other best pension systems were, in order, Washington, North Carolina, Oregon, Tennessee, Idaho, Delaware, New York and Florida. Each of these mandated higher employer contributions. South Carolina’s rank was 33rd.

The large question framing this debate is, of course, why did our state retirement system have to raise the employer and employee rates three times since 2015? Yes, there is a crisis, but the default solution need not be exclusively that public employees should pay more.

Public employees-taxpayers understand that there are many reasons for this crisis. But the issue is more complex than a simple rush to individual retirement accounts. In fact, the push for a 401(k)-type retirement system as a win-win option for employers and employees is not a fool-proof policy. Anyone doubting this should read the National Public Pension Coalition’s case study “Three states that abandoned their pensions — and suffered the consequences.”

This February 2017 study documents the disastrous experiences of Michigan, Alaska and West Virginia after their switches to individual retirement systems. 401(k) proponents will argue that all pension systems throughout the country are failing, yet according to the Council of State Governments, pension funds across the country are 80 percent funded and 87 percent of these plans make their annual contributions.

There is plenty of research and experience that warn us that individual retirement accounts are not fair and equitable solutions for repairing defined benefit retirement systems. This body of information provides ample arguments that individual retirement accounts over time are less productive and more costly — to the employee and the employer.

Other states have conducted a cost base analysis and found a 401(k) impractical and ultimately more expensive to the taxpayer and less beneficial to the employee. If South Carolina policy-makers have research that suggests this march to individual retirement accounts is better than repairing the existing system, it should be published for all to consider. Public employees, as beneficiaries and as taxpayers, have a distinct interest in this discussion and can provide an informed opinion.

The default position should not be this simplistic rush to transform the system to individual retirement accounts, but to do what is best to assure the continuity, the productivity and the highest possible morale of public employees. In the long run, that is the best investment for taxpayers.

Capt. Joseph Carey is a 20-year veteran of the North Charleston Fire Department.

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Old 12-11-2017, 04:58 PM
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DIVESTMENT
http://thehill.com/opinion/finance/3...ican-investors

Quote:
Pensions should avoid politics and invest for the benefit of our workers
Spoiler:
Why do public fiduciaries think they should impose their political agenda on other people’s retirement benefits? Is not the standard of care to manage public retirement funds with the highest return at the lowest reasonable risk? With more than 50 percent of all state pension funds significantly underfunded and at least five states, including my native Connecticut, facing immanent bankruptcy due to grossly unfunded state employee and teacher pension systems, why would both beneficiaries and taxpayers, who will be forced to makeup those liabilities, want to politicize the management of the money? As I will also be a beneficiary in a few years, please manage the money without a political agenda.

When I was elected state treasurer of Connecticut in 1994, I inherited the worst performing state pension system in America for the previous 10 years. Within the first six months we fired the vast majority of money managers and indexed 75 percent of the portfolio. Yet, I was attacked for holding tobacco stocks in the portfolio, by virtue of the fact that we owned an S&P 500 stock index fund. I refused to play politics with the pension, particularly after 10 years of politics had relegated pension fund performance to the gutter. Instead, we focused on the highest return at a reasonable risk, and performance skyrocketed from dead last to the top 25 percent in the country, overnight.



Now a new era of activists, without any regard to fiduciary responsibility, is injecting politics into pension systems, yet again, by trying to make states, counties and municipalities across the country divest of shares in energy companies. Why would we seek to undermine the integrity of a secure retirement for our teachers and government employees? If they, individually, want to invest in activist funds, they should force states to move to a system similar to the U.S. government employee retirement system, or to a full or partial defined contribution system, such as Rhode Island recently did. Then retirees can make decisions for themselves.
However, to force a political agenda to be shoved into the investment of their retirement accounts is wrong, and a clear violation of fiduciary responsibility. Moreover, if you divest from energy investments, where do you stop? If you remove energy companies, why not remove fast food companies? How about booze, gambling and producers of sugary drinks? As a combat veteran, I am very grateful for the strength of our American defense industry and believe we should invest more in defense companies. Would everyone else agree with me?

Additionally, pressure is mounting on banks. Recently, U.S. Bank, the leading provider of financial products and services to the federal government for over 30 years, has ceded to these activist groups and announced radical changes to corporate policies, including ceasing its investments in energy infrastructure. Its management announced that U.S. Bank plans to stop providing construction for energy pipelines, although it has not announced that that it will no longer service the major railroad carrier, which carry all of the coal Minnesota uses to produce over 30 percent of their electric energy needs. Fiduciary responsibility also means responsibility to shareholders.

We must not allow individual political and ideological agendas to break the special trust and confidence our government and teacher retirees should have in those who are elected or appointed to be the fiduciaries of retirement systems across our country. Unless mandated by law, such as owning shares in companies doing business in North Korea, there is no room for ideological agendas in the management of other people’s money, particularly our teachers and government employees.

Christopher B. Burnham is the former state treasurer of Connecticut, where he was sole fiduciary of the $16 billion Connecticut pension system, and former undersecretary general of the United Nations, where he was sole fiduciary of the $42 billion United Nations pension system. He is now chairman of consulting firm Cambridge Global Advisors.
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Old 12-11-2017, 04:58 PM
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CALIFORNIA
https://calpensions.com/2017/12/11/c...pension-costs/
Quote:
Cities look at tax hikes to pay rising pension costs
Spoiler:
El Segundo and Arcadia were among two dozen cities urging the CalPERS board last month to avoid another employer rate increase, the fifth in the last five years, when adjusting its $344 billion investment portfolio this month.

Last week, the two well-funded cities, both with currently balanced budgets and high service levels, considered sales tax increases. Despite cutting costs, the cities now face deficits from a steep rise in CalPERS rates scheduled for the next seven years.

El Segundo’s mayor pro tem, Drew Boyles, told the California Public Employees Retirement System board last month the city’s required pension contribution this year is $11 million or 16 percent of general fund revenue.

In five years, Boyles said, the payment to CalPERS is expected to be $18 million and 25 percent of general fund revenue as the employer rate for safety employees increases from 50 percent of pay to 80 percent of pay.

“These increases are not sustainable and may result in the reduction or elimination of service to our community,” he said, “such as a hiring freeze, furloughs or even potential layoffs, reduction in parks and recreation services, library services, public safety, deferred maintenance on city infrastructure, and reduction to overall infrastructure.”

Steps already taken to “address the immminent financial crisis,” said Boyles, include a pension trust fund, advance payments of pension debt, no pay raises for some employee groups for the last five years, and deferring $2.3 million per year in facility repairs and maintenance.

The El Segundo city council considered a sales tax proposal last week (see video 1:26) for an unusual reason beyond maintaining the “exceptional level of municipal services” expected by residents and the business community.

A 3/4-cent sales tax or 0.75 percent is all that remains available for El Segundo under state law that caps the Los Angeles County sales tax at 10.25 percent. So, the city wants to get the 3/4 cent sales tax before the county takes it.

“It’s like the earthquake,” Mayor Suzanne Fuentes told the council last week. “It’s not a matter of if, it’s when the county puts the next tax item on the ballot. And it will pass, because every county tax ballot issue gets passed.”

Voters approved a 1/4-cent county sales tax increase in March to help the homeless, Measure H, and a 1/2-cent county sales tax in November last year to fund transportation projects, Measure M.

The original El Segundo proposal would ask city voters in April to approve a 3/4-cent sales tax generating $9 million a year that would not take effect until the county approved a new sales tax. If the county measure is rejected, the city tax would be suspended.

As a better defense against a legal challenge, the council told staff to prepare another option for consideration at its next meeting. The city tax would be triggered when the county places a measure on the ballot or on a date several years after the April vote, whichever comes first.

At the request of Boyles, who pointed to a pension debt of more than $100 million, the staff also was told to prepare a proposal to close a $400,000 budget deficit expected to open next October as a growing budget gap begins.

“I want to start with the mindset now because taxing is not going to get us there,” Boyles said. “There is no way we are going to continue to tax our way out of this hole we are in right now.”

Legislation can lift the state sales tax cap for local governments. Gov. Brown signed legislation (SB 703) in October that allows Alameda and Santa Clara counties and the city of Santa Fe Springs to impose limited sales tax increases outside of the state cap.


Five-year projection of Arcadia pension costs
“In every way we are the envy of everybody in the San Gabriel Valley,” the Arcadia city manager, Dominic Lazzaretto told the CalPERS board last month.

He said Arcadia has sales tax revenue from a thriving regional mall, increased property tax revenue from a luxury housing boom, and revenue streams not available to other cities from the Santa Anita Park thoroughbred racetrack.

“And still, in all, I cannot afford the flight path we are on,” Lazzaretto said, urging the board to avoid another employer rate increase. He said the city’s required CalPERS contribution, $11.6 million this year, is expected to increase to $17 million in five years.

Arcadia already has done “right-sizing,” negotiated “takebacks and pensions reforms,” maintained strong reserves that can cover a funding gap for a short time, and may like other cities ask voters to approve a sales tax increase, Lazzaretto said.

Last week, the Arcadia city council was told (see video 1:06) that a survey done by a consultant hired to explore a sales tax found residents are “extremely satisfied” with city services but “looming fiscal challenges are not well understood.”

The city council decided to shelve a tax proposal and extend the contract of the consultant, the Lew Edwards Group, to conduct a campaign to educate the public about the fiscal challenge and explore possible solutions.

“We should not be promoting one thing over another,” said council member April Verlato. “We should not be promoting that we are looking for a tax increase.”

Council members mentioned a state Fair Political Practices Committion probe into county television ads and social media posts appearing to support Measure H. The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association complained that campaign law had been violated.

Council member Roger Chandler reminded the council that Measure H used up some of the remaining sales tax allowed in Los Angeles County under the 10.25 cents state cap.

“Any new tax that is passed by the county will go against the city of Arcadia’s tax,” Chandler said. “We still have something left because our city has never used a sales tax to finance anything.”

More than a half dozen cities in Los Angeles County have approved sales taxes that, with the state’s 7.5-cent share and the county taxes, total 10.25 cents: Compton, La Mirada, Long Beach, Lynwood, Pico Rivera, Santa Monica, and South Gate.

Pension costs for cities are rising mainly because the CalPERS board lowered the investment earnings forecast used to discount future pension obligations from an annual average of 7.5 percent to 7 percent.

More money from employers is needed to fill the funding gap created by the lower investment earnings forecast. Rate increases for cities begin next year and are scheduled to continue until 2024.

The sharp drop in the discount rate last December was irregular, prompted by a 10-year forecast of lower investment earnings and the failure of CalPERS funding to recover from huge investment losses a decade ago.

Now as part of a regular four-year process, the CalPERS board is expected to choose one of four investment allocation options next week. One would leave the earnings forecast at 7 percent, requiring no additional change in employer rates.

Reporter Ed Mendel covered the Capitol in Sacramento for nearly three decades, most recently for the San Diego Union-Tribune. More stories are at Calpensions.com. Posted 11 Dec 17

MENDOCINO COUNTY
http://www.ukiahdailyjournal.com/gen...ion-fund-fraud
Quote:
Another Voice: Nine and a half million dollar pension fund fraud?
Spoiler:
Mendocino County’s unfunded pension debt is 87% of its assets, the most of California’s 21 counties with County Pension Funds. Tulare’s unfunded debt is 13 percent, the best. This difference is no accident. Something made us the worst. What?

Retirement and County officials (mostly but not only in the past) have a long history of pension non-transparency, obfuscation, and denial of financial reality. They sacrificed our County’s fiscal health for their short-term benefit. They figured out clever ways to get around laws. They were never held accountable.

Here’s one of many examples.

The County and unions set what pensions will be in contracts. The independent unaccountable Retirement Board then sets how much the County and employees must contribute to the Pension Fund and is supposed to achieve their target investment returns. But for 25 years when they earned more they stripped so called “Excess Earnings” out of the Fund to pay retiree health insurance. Only the County must pay extra to eliminate the resulting unfunded pension debt, a third of the $285 million total debt they imposed on 88.000 residents.

But this story is about when there were no Excess Earnings.

County Supervisors adopted a 1998 Retiree Healthcare Policy — employees hired before got this benefit, those after didn’t. If there are no “excess Earnings” they’ll split costs 50-50 with retirees.

In 2002 County Supervisors illegally increased pensions, borrowed $92 million to pay for it, and adopted “Board Policy 40”. “With the goal of ... providing assurance to taxpayers that the County is well managed and financially sound, the County will endeavor to avoid the creation of additional (unfunded pensions). The County shall quantify, by actuarial study, both the near and long-term financial impact of all proposed actions (that might increase unfunded pensions). Should such findings indicate an increase to the county’s (debt), the County shall carefully evaluate the financial impact.”

In 2010 the IRS was about to examine the Pension Fund. Tim Knudsen and Jim Andersen gave a report to the Retirement Board. Knudsen was former Retirement Administrator and County Treasurer. Andersen was then Retirement Administrator and former County Chief Administrative Officer. Knudsen said “We got into the situation in 2002 — 2003 (when we) had no more Excess Earnings but we had health insurance we were paying for.” Both were in their previous offices when Policy 40 was adopted in 2002.

Knudsen reported — the Retirement Board diverted $6.1 million from the County’s pension contributions to pay health benefits for 3 years. Then the actuary said that violated State law (it did — big time!). Then they took another $3.5 million directly out of the Pension Fund until “Excess Earnings” showed up. He said they repaid the Pension Fund $9.6 million.


How? The money was gone.

A $9.6 million asset called “Actuarial Value of Unrecorded Earnings” suddenly appeared in reports to the Retirement Board. It was a claim against future Excess Earnings. Imagine applying for a loan and listing a $1 million asset titled “Money I’ll get someday for work I haven’t yet done”. That isn’t an asset. It’s air.

But that “asset” never appeared in audited public reports. They spread it over other investments. They reported their Pension Fund was worth $9.6 million more than it was. In the Private Sector that’s fraud.

The Retirement Board diverted County contributions for current employees to pay health benefits about half of them would never get putting those pensions at risk. By law they must produce financial statements using “generally accepted accounting principles”. “Actuarial Value…” was a flagrant violation. The 50-50 split? Board Policy 40? Never came up.

After Knudsen’s report Andersen said “there’s $9.6 million still outstanding. There may be a way we can eliminate that asset.” Later he referred to “this liability on the books.” Which was it, asset or liability?

Retirement Directors approved a $9.6 million violation of numerous laws — a potential personal liability. They quickly wrote it off as worthless which it always was. Then the IRS forced them to admit they violated State and Federal laws. Penalty? County residents must pay the debt with interest.

One of many examples of what made us the worst.

John G Dickerson is a Redwood Valley resident.

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ILLINOIS
https://prairiestatewire.com/stories...pension-reform
Quote:
Ives: 'Honest conversation' needed with unions about pension reform
Spoiler:
State Rep. Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton) welcomes the role of serving as the face of change.

“We have to demand something different and I’m into being the leader of the revolt,” Ives told the Prairie State Wire upon hearing news Illinois now ranks No. 49 in the country in taxpayer burden.

Illinois State House Rep. Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton), running for Governor
Illinois State House Rep. Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton), running for Governor
The Truth in Accounting survey also concluded the average Illinois taxpayer now owes $50,400 in debt, based on 2016 government financial records. Overall, the cash-strapped state has total liabilities of $235.9 billion, with just $25.5 billion in assets.

The state’s faltering reputation comes after well over a decade of uninterrupted Democratic rule, including 11 straight years of Democrats occupying the governor’s mansion before the 2014 election of Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner.

Even with Rauner in power, earlier this year Democrats, with the aid of a handful of Republican lawmakers, banded together to override a veto by Rauner to permanently increase the personal income tax by 32 percent.

“Once again, Illinois is an outlier when it comes to states having their finances in order,” Ives said. “People are waking up to the problem, and instead of fighting with the ruling class they’re just deciding to leave the state altogether.”

Ives recently began circulating petitions in anticipation of a 2018 Republican primary run against Rauner. She said seeing so many “good responsible people” choosing to flee the state instead of dealing with all its wayward direction is part of the impetus for her run.

“We have to have an honest conversation with the unions about what we can afford as a state and about pension reforms,” she said.

In handing the state an overall "F" grade, Truth in Accounting researchers also highlighted that the state now owes nearly $117 billion in pension liabilities, or roughly half of its $210 billion in overall debt. In 2016 alone, pension liabilities grew by another $8 billion.

“We’ve known for a while things where headed in this direction,” Ives said. “Until we change things, we’ll continue to see the outmigration of some of our most valuable taxpayers and municipalities will continue to pile on debt.”
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KENTUCKY
http://nelsoncountygazette.com/?p=34425
Quote:
Higdon: Pension reform’s best chances are in the 2018 General Assembly
Spoiler:
By SEN. JIMMY HIGDON
14th District State Senator

SEN. JIMMY HIGDON
Sunday, Dec. 10, 2017 — I would like to start this article by wishing each of you a Merry Christmas and thanking you for allowing me to serve as your State Senator. This year has flown by starting with a productive 2017 Session of the Kentucky General Assembly, followed by a busy Interim break, new Senate Leadership elections, and talks of pension reform. Many of you have offered constructive feedback and opinions that I have taken to heart as we begin to craft legislation for the 2018 Budget Session.
I also heard from many constituents regarding a possible special session to address pension reform. There has been much discussion on the topic among my colleagues after hearing feedback from our communities. I believe the best path forward for pension reform lies in the 2018 Session.
I want to thank all of you for your input on the pension reform. I know it is a sensitive and serious issue for many of my constituents. We in the General Assembly take pension reform very seriously as it is the single-largest financial issue facing our Commonwealth.
The upcoming 2018 Session will be difficult and sacrifices will have to be made to ensure the fiscal health of our state. I want to give you opportunities to share your thoughts with me at my upcoming legislative coffees:
— December 13: Meeting at the Jeffersontown Community Center at 7:30 a.m., hosted by the Jeffersontown Chamber of Commerce
— January 8: Meeting at the Nelson County Old Courthouse – 8 a.m. with Rep. Chad McCoy
— January 15: Meeting at the Marion County Chamber of Commerce at Center Square – 8 a.m. with Rep. Reed
— January 29: Meeting at the Casey County City Hall – 8 a.m. with Rep. Elliott
— February 5: Legislative Coffee at the Spencer County-Taylorsville Chamber of Commerce – 8 a.m. with Rep. Tipton
Additionally, the 16th Annual Josephine “Mama Jo” Nuckols’ Prayer Breakfast will be held on Jan. 6 at 8 a.m. at the Lebanon United Methodist Church located at 235 North Spalding Avenue. This breakfast is a great way to kick off the New Year with members of our community, and I hope to see you all there.
If you have any questions or comments about these issues or any other public policy issue, please call me toll-free at 1-800-372-7181, on my home phone at 270-692-6945, or email me at Jimmy.Higdon@LRC.ky.gov. You can also review the Legislature’s work online at www.lrc.ky.gov.
Note: Senator Jimmy Higdon (R-Lebanon) represents the 14th District including Casey, Marion, Nelson and Spencer counties, as well as part of Jefferson County. He serves as the Senate President Pro-Tem Designee and previously served as the Senate Majority Whip. Senator Higdon also serves as a member on the Economic Development, Tourism, and Labor Committee; the Education Committee; the Licensing, Occupations, and Administrative Regulations Committee; the Transportation Committee; the Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection Committee; the Public Pension Oversight Board; The Special Subcommittee on Energy; the Budget Review Subcommittee on Transportation, the Committee on Committees; the Rules Committee; and the Legislative Research Commission.
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MICHIGAN
GRAND TRAVERSE COUNTY
http://www.record-eagle.com/news/loc...fef5ac5f4.html
Quote:
Filling a $14 billion hole
Grand Traverse County could fall short if lawmakers pass bills aimed at fixing pension, retiree health care shortfalls
Spoiler:
TRAVERSE CITY — Firefighters and public safety officers work hard through their younger years, and bank on an earlier retirement with a decent pension and health benefits.

It's an essential safety net for many, said Traverse City Fire Department Chief Jim Tuller.

That could change if local governments struggling to fund their retirees' pension and health care plans are forced to pare those benefits back, Tuller said. He has been eyeing a package of bills moving through the state Legislature that would compel local governments to take corrective action if their unfunded liabilities grow big enough.

Firefighters typically retire in their late-40s or mid-50s, putting Medicare out of reach for a decade or more, Tuller said. They rely on retiree health care benefits usually included in their collective bargaining agreements to fill that gap. These benefits are particularly crucial because of the health problems firefighters face, he said.

"The peace of mind is at the end of their career, they have a pension and they have health care benefits to help them out," he said.

Local governments with hefty unfunded pension or retiree health care liabilities may be required pare down benefits for future hires, according to a bill state representatives passed Thursday. Legislators are taking aim $14 billion in unfunded retirement liabilities statewide, according to numbers provided by the Michigan Association of Counties.

State Rep. Larry Inman, R-Williamsburg, said the bill establishes thresholds past which a local government would have to submit a corrective action plan to a municipal stability board.

Cities, counties and other local units — except schools — must have their pension plans at least 60 percent funded, and their retiree health care plans at least 30 percent funded, according to the bill, Inman said. It also requires the state treasurer to determine if local governments have adequately funded retirement plans, and establishes reporting and audit requirements as well.

Corrective actions include capping benefit multipliers, cost-sharing and copays, and local ballot proposals to seek a millage dedicated to paying down retirement liabilities, Inman said.

Grand Traverse County could fall below the cutoffs if the bill becomes law. Michigan Municipal Employment Retirement System's figures from the end of 2016 show the county's pension plan funded at 45 percent, and with more than $53 million in unfunded liabilities. Its retirement health care plan had $7.7 million in unfunded liabilities at the end of 2016, according to a county audit.

Former county Administrator Tom Menzel said the retirement health plan had no funding until county commissioners put up $250,000 in June.

"They need to make some structural changes there," he said.

County commissioner Dan Lathrop said he's not familiar with the bill's details. But he hopes the county's pension stabilization plan would be enough to satisfy any state requirements.

Commissioners in July agreed to pay $5.9 million toward the debt in a deal that extended the county's payment plan to 16 years and reduced the peak in a string of growing annual payments. They also created an irrevocable trust a month later to stabilize the payments, but declined to fund it.

That came as a disappointment to Lathrop, he said. He believes the county is on the right track in addressing its unfunded liabilities, but he hopes commissioners will fund the trust.

Commissioner Addison "Sonny" Wheelock Jr. said he doesn't know much about the bill either.

Grand Traverse County could put money into the trust or pay it directly to MERS if commissioners identify extra funds, Wheelock said. But he would need to be sure the county is meeting all its obligations before budgeting money to go into the trust.

"That would have to be a discussion of the board, because if money is put into the trust, it can't be used for anything else," he said.

Wheelock also pointed out that the county has always paid its retiree health care system bills.

Calls to county Administrator Vicki Uppal weren't returned Friday.

Other local governments are in a far better position.

Traverse City's pension plan, minus Traverse City Light & Power, is 64 percent funded as of June 30, 2016, and its Police and Fire Retirement System is 63.5 percent funded as of the end of 2016, according to city-provided numbers.

Health care plans for city retirees were funded at 63 percent overall, not including the Police and Firefighter Retiree Health system, at 46.5 percent, the figures show.

City Manager Marty Colburn said he believes the city's retirement programs are fiscally healthy. That's in part because of commissioners' vote in 2009 to close employee retirement health care plans to any new hires, among other steps to cut retirement costs.

Tuller said firefighters who joined the department before then could be impacted by any cuts to retirement packages they've yet to claim.

"It's something a lot of folks have had their eyes on and are kind of watching," he said.

Traverse City Light & Power, which would also have to meet the bills' requirements, also is doing well, utility Executive Director Tim Arends said. Its pension plan was 59 percent funded at the end of 2016. The utility also has $1.6 million set aside for retiree health care, and that number grows every year.

Utility board members in 2016 approved a 10-year plan where TCL&P would pay $1 million extra to eliminate its unfunded pension liability, Arends said. Surging financial markets also have helped.

"So I believe that Traverse City Light & Power is in a very good position, comparatively, on its obligations for both pension and (retiree health care) liabilities," he said.

The bill went through some last-minute changes, Inman said. Lawmakers' concerns over the municipal stability board's powers over local government and ability to appoint an emergency financial manager forced a rewrite hours before representatives voted.

Those provisions were dropped, and the bill that passed early Thursday largely resembles recommendations from a task force Gov. Rick Snyder formed to deal with the statewide issue, Inman said. It's up to the Senate to move the bills forward.

The proposals aim to sound a "wake-up call" to local governments, Inman said. They're constitutionally bound to pay retirees what they earned — any changes the proposed law would prompt could only impact future retirees.

"What was promised, what was bargained for, you have to start reserving for," he said.

Mike Gillman said he's sympathetic to lawmakers' aims. He served on Grand Traverse County's pension advisory committee, and had watched a previous version of the bills make their way through the state House.

Grand Traverse County got into its predicament because of a variety of factors, including overly generous perks for employee groups, Gillman said. MERS officials also were over-optimistic in estimating how well retirement investments would fare.

The bills aim to address a serious problem that goes way beyond Grand Traverse County, Gillman said.

"But, boy, I would hope that it wouldn't go through without a lot of hearings," he said.

Colburn said other factors hurt local government finances, including property values that shrunk their tax revenues during the Great Recession, and the state's cuts to revenue sharing. And local governments are inhibited in how they can raise additional revenue in ways the state is not — local sales taxes are illegal, for example.

Requiring local governments to fund their pensions protects the state from footing their debt if they go bankrupt, Colburn said. But it's just a start, and lawmakers need to do more.

"They also have to recognize that it takes funding resources and revenue to fund these services and infrastructure investments, so they have to provide us the mechanisms to raise those funds appropriately," he said.
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NEW JERSEY
http://www.nj.com/opinion/index.ssf/...t_2box_opinion
Quote:
Christie may be a creep, but he's right about this | Moran

Spoiler:
After enduring eight years of Chris Christie's insufferable arrogance and bullying, it is tempting to reject every word that comes out of his mouth.

My blood pressure doctor would urge me to ignore him now, to ride out these final weeks in peace. Breathe in, breathe out.

But I went to his press conference Wednesday, and it reminded me that he is dead right about some big things, which is why we re-elected him in a landslide. So, before we purge all memory of Christie, and sprinkle salt on that ground so that nothing should ever grow there again, let's pause.

The first gospel according to Christie is this: We can't afford the benefits we offer to public workers today.

We can't afford to give retiring police chiefs $500,000 in unused sick pay. We can't afford to provide health coverage that would qualify as "platinum-plus" under Obamacare. And we can't afford old-style pension plans that were abandoned in the private sector decades ago.

On Wednesday, Christie's bipartisan commission on public worker benefits issued its final report. If you remember one fact from its four years of thankless and unpaid work, make it this:

The cost of paying pension and health benefits absorbed 13 percent of our state budget in 2016. Without another round of reform, that will double to 26 percent in six years.


"It's hard for people to get their arms around a problem of this magnitude," said Tom Byrne, the co-chairman of the commission. "The personalities are about to change. But that math is not changing. If anything, it's getting worse."

If costs balloon like that, the next decade will be a grinding series of big tax hikes and meaty spending cuts. It is a formula for economic decline that should horrify conservatives and liberals in equal measure.

Because Byrne is right. This is about math, not ideology.

If we spend $100 million on platinum benefits for public workers, that's $100 million less we have for preschool or drug treatment. And if you want Trenton to provide relief for your property tax torture, forget it. You're on your own.

Byrne is a hard-core Democrat, a former state chairman of the party, and son of the former governor. His co-chair, Tom Healey, is a Republican who worked in Ronald Reagan's treasury department. What they have in common is big brains and a willingness to face reality.

My biggest fear about our next governor, Phil Murphy, is that he doesn't seem to get this. He ran from this reality during the campaign, and instead made the public worker unions his closest allies. He's ignoring the math.


Maybe he'll change when he's behind the desk. Christie on Wednesday invoked the mantra of all hopeless political causes: Murphy could do the opposite of what everyone expects, like Nixon going to China.

"That's my hope, that he'll rise to the occasion," Christie said. "I'm a born optimist."

I might have been born an optimist, too; I can't remember. But I've been covering New Jersey politics for a long time, so any scrap of that was snuffed out long ago.

I'm terrified. I'm selling my house in the spring, and I'm thinking about packing a suitcase full of essentials and leaving it by the door.

As for Christie, he didn't solve this problem. When he signed a bill to cut benefits in 2011, he broke his promise to ramp up to full pension payments over a seven-year stretch. New Jersey's fiscal crisis remains among the worst in the nation by any measure. In the respected Mercatus Center's ranking, we are dead last.

Still, I give Christie great credit. We'd be in much worse shape without the 2011 reforms. And the broken promise is overblown: Instead of reaching full payment over 7 years, we are on track to reach that goal in 10 years. Christie put more money into the pension funds than all the governors before him combined, going back to Gov. James Florio.

Still, as with most things, his personality flaws tripped him up. He made himself so obnoxious by demonizing public workers that he undercut political support for the sensible changes recommended by Byrne and Healey.

At his press conference Wednesday, we had to endure another round of that.

"We have among the highest paid teachers in America," he said. "Where are they suffering exactly? And most of these public employees make more than all of you, I'm confident. And yet you're being required to plan and save for your own retirement."

So, his narrative is that the teachers are greedy, and the rest of us should resent them because they are taking our money.

Fact check: Teachers in New Jersey make an average of $70,000 a year, and many of them saw their take-home pay decline after the 2011 reforms shifted health costs to them. Teachers, like cops and firefighters, have been paying their full share of pensions on time every year, while the state has not. Even Byrne and Healey concluded that the primary blame belongs to the state, not to the public workers.

We need a second round of cuts, at least on health benefits and sick pay. But it's not because teachers are greedy and evil. It's because we need the money, and the proposed cuts would leave them with good benefits.

The same applies to the millionaires' tax: It's not that rich people are evil and greedy. It's just that we need the money, and the added tax would leave them plenty rich.


Christie is a wedge politician, like Donald Trump. They gin up support by demonizing their opponents.

But that's not going to fix New Jersey. Because to dig out of this deep hole, everyone will have to take a piece of the shared sacrifice.

Maybe if Murphy does go to China, and asks his union buddies for concessions, he can pitch it that way. Maybe then he won't wind up with an approval rating of 14 percent. Maybe then he can get it done.

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