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Mary Pat Campbell
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MARYLAND

http://marylandreporter.com/2018/02/...ocal-pensions/

Quote:
Opinion: Annapolis should keep hands off local pensions
Spoiler:
By Ken Decker

Caroline County Administrator

About a year ago, I wrote an essay for MarylandReporter.com suggesting the state legislature look to local governments for ideas on how to successfully manage pension systems. Naturally, the opposite has happened.

Del. Mary Ann Lisanti of Harford County is pushing HB 971, legislation that would require local government pensions to provide a potentially budget-breaking disability benefit for some public safety employees.

Del. Lisanti’s bill is a response to a line-of-duty injury suffered by a police officer in one of Harford County’s municipalities. There’s no question that it is a situation that tugs at heart strings. It’s also the perfect example of the old legal adage: Hard cases make bad laws.

Caroline County—the state’s second poorest—has its own pension system. After years of hard work and sacrifice, our system is stronger that the state’s. Del. Lisanti’s well-intentioned effort to benefit a single individual will have a profound effect on thousands of local government employees including ours.

Expensive benefits

Our actuaries are crunching numbers now, but there’s no doubt the new benefit will be expensive, not only to provide but to administer. The smaller the pension system, the greater the impact. The reasons are much same as why small counties cannot afford to self-insure for worker’s compensation. With a small pool of employees, even one or two unanticipated claims can dramatically increase costs. The inherent volatility and disproportionately high administrative costs makes self-insuring impractical.

If HB 971 is passed, Caroline County faces the prospect of having to increase what employees pay into the pension, cutting spending to pay a larger employer share, and/or restructuring pension benefits for future retirees. Since about 75% of our annual budget is dictated by state mandates, we have few options—none appealing.

The bill also backdates the benefit to 2015, presumably to benefit Delegate Lisanti’s constituent. This is problematic not only for pension funds, but for bond rating agencies. How can those agencies evaluate our creditworthiness if financial mandates can be imposed ex post facto?

Already providing long-term diasability

We understand the issue. We already provide long-term disability insurance at no cost to our employees. We are working towards other solutions we can afford, and not just for public safety employees. After all, other workers can be left disabled due to a work-related injury. They deserve no less consideration.

Whatever we do must be financially responsible. It’s laudable that Del. Lisanti wants local government pensions to match the lavish benefits promised by Maryland’s Law Enforcement Officers’ Pension System (LEOPS). The unflattering reality, however, is that state has woefully underfunded LEOPS despite an employer share of nearly 40 cents for every dollar in wages. By comparison, the employer share for Caroline’s fiscally sustainable pension system is less than 12 cents.

It is tempting but would be intemperate to suggest the Maryland legislature fix its own pension systems before dictating how we should manage ours. My request is more measured. Give local pension officials time to do the actuarial work necessary to determine the impact. It is unconscionable to ignore the plight of workers disabled in the line of duty, but no less so to blindly force local governments to make pension promises we cannot afford to keep.

Ken Decker is the County Administrator for Caroline County and Chair of the County’s Pension Board.




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ILLINOIS

http://thesouthern.com/news/local/si...ba2c115dd.html

Quote:
SIU president: Plenty to worry about in governor's budget proposal
CARBONDALE — A key cost-saving measure in Gov. Bruce Rauner’s budget proposal is a plan to shift pensions and health insurance expenses from the state budget to universities, community colleges and school districts.


Spoiler:
Southern Illinois University System President Randy Dunn said administrators in higher education have been hearing discussion about such a shift for years, so the announcement didn’t come as a shock.

+5Rauner says pension, health overhaul needed to balance state's budget
Rauner says pension, health overhaul needed to balance state's budget
SPRINGFIELD — Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner said Wednesday he could balance the Illinois budget and cut taxes by $1 billion provided the Democr…

What is surprising, Dunn said, is the rapidity of the proposed transition. Rauner wants to shift pensions off the state budget by 25 percent this year, rising to 100 percent in four years. That schedule would give the university system little time to work out revenue streams to support those additional costs.

“You’d hear different proposals — one maybe 10 years, one maybe 20 years — but at no point did you really hear informed discussion taking place about making that kind of change over a four-year period, and that’s what the governor has put forward here,” Dunn said.

In addition to pensions, Rauner also plans to hand group health care expenses over to state universities, but the timeline for that cost shift isn’t totally clear, according to Dunn.

The state currently pays $146 million in group health costs to the SIU System. If Rauner intends to ramp up both pension and health care billing at the same rate, SIU will have to pay a total of $188 million after those four years are up — more than the system’s entire state appropriation for a given year.

Although the governor has provided discretionary replacement funds to offset those additional costs for fiscal year 2019, there’s no indication or guarantee that the state would reimburse the university beyond the first year.

Critics of the proposed shift say it will result in property tax hikes as local school districts try to make up for the shortfall.


“For the nine public universities and systems, we don’t have the ability to levy a tax, and in fact what you would likely see happen is tuition and fees somehow having to absorb part of that and potentially looking at some sort of increased share with employees. We just don’t have anywhere else to go to get that done,” Dunn said.

When the governor’s recommended budget gets shaped in the General Assembly, Dunn hopes to see more cost sharing with the state, an extension of the transition period and some additional guarantee of the offset.

“I would not be one who would say any discussion of a cost share has to be off the table … but without the time to think that through, it just gets to be a very difficult proposition to figure out how you build it into a budget, particularly coming off two years of being strangled in terms of state appropriations overall and having to figure out how to keep ourselves afloat during that time,” Dunn said.

Dunn said the state pension system is already so bare-bones that it’s no longer a selling point that attracts new talent.

“I’m not saying that there wasn’t a need for pension benefit reform, but we’re in a position now where with the reforms that have taken place over the past five years or so that, under the state pension system, the benefits are getting so lean that they barely qualify to equating to Social Security, and it’s causing us a problem, and all universities a problem, when it comes to the ability to recruit new faculty and professional staff,” Dunn said.

As for what Dunn considers to be good news for SIU in the recommended FY19 budget, appropriations for universities generally remain level with last year: the SIU System would receive $181.1 million in state funds, a $1 million decrease from FY18.

MAP grants would also be funded at the same level as FY18.

The governor also plans to allocate $31.2 million to Illinois Veterans and National Guard Grants, which have not seen any state funding since 2010.

“We’ve been doing that on our own, carrying that for the state, so the governor to recognize that has been well appreciated, I know, by all of us at SIU and probably all the universities,” Dunn said.


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TENNESSEE

http://www.stategazette.com/story/2485753.html

Quote:
Pension plan hot topic at city meeting
Spoiler:
On Friday morning, the City of Dyersburg Finance and Recreation Committees convened in the upstairs conference room at City Hall. Though not an item of discussion on the agenda, the status of the City of Dyersburg’s Pension Plan was a hot issue discussed under other business.

“It’s to my understanding that Tuesday Mr. Kirk, Kevin Chaney, and Mike Morgan went to the state of Tennessee and talked to the state treasurer about our retirement plan,” said Dyersburg Mayor John Holden. “It’s no secret that the retirement plan has been in trouble for a long time. The retirement plan was started in 1972 – I was 12 years old – it’s been through lots of revisions.

“Back in 2000, I guess, there was a major revision to the pension plan when people were allowed to buy back service, which increased the unfunded liability – more than doubled the unfunded liability back in 2000. Mr. Kirk, I think you remember that. You were here.”

Kirk nodded his head and agreed.

The mayor added that the revision in 2000, “started the downhill trend on our retirement plan.”

“There’s a lot of misinformation out there, and I think it’s important to this board and to the public that we get the information out there.”

Mayor Holden then outlined the history, beginning in 2015, of how the pension plan arrived at its current state.

On Dec. 7, 2015, the city’s Finance Committee convened to discuss the pension plan. The state had passed the Public Defined Benefit Financial Security Act of 2014 on May 22, 2014, which required local government-sponsored defined benefit pension plans to not only fund the plans sufficiently to meet current benefit payment obligations, but also that they achieve payment of 100 percent of their actuarially determined contributions within a 5-year phase in period to ensure long-term financial stability and soundness of the plan. The city was required to take the following actions to establish compliance with the Public Defined Benefit Financial Security Act of 2014:

• Adopt the Pension Funding Policy of the City of Dyersburg:

A motion to adopt the Pension Funding Policy of the city of Dyersburg was made by Kirk with a second from Alderman Terry Glover. During the Dec. 7, 2015 Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting, Chaney motioned to approve the committee’s recommendation with a second from Kirk. The motion was passed by the full board.

• Adopt a Plan of Correction

Following the approval of the Pension Funding Policy, the city then had to adopt the Plan of Correction, which set forth the schedule of annual percentages to be met each year until 100 percent is achieved. The committee approved the Plan of Correction behind a motion from Kirk and a second from Glover. During the board meeting, Chaney motioned to approve the Plan of Correction with a second from Alderman Robert Taylor Jr. It also was passed by the full board.

• Adopt the Amended and Restated City of Dyersburg Pension Plan

The committee approved this behind a motion from Kirk and a second from Mayor Holden. The full board also approved the recommendation behind a motion from Chaney and a second from Alderman Bill Escue.

• Adoption of a 401k plan administered by the state of Tennessee

Kirk motioned for approval with a second from Glover, which the Finance Committee approved. It was approved by the full board behind a motion from Chaney and a second by Morgan.

Following the board’s approval of the 4 aforementioned items, Mayor Holden sent a letter to state of Tennessee Treasurer David Lillard Jr. on Dec. 8, 2015, stating that the Mayor and Board of Aldermen approved the plan. In return, Lillard submitted the plan of correction to the Tennessee State Funding Board on Dec. 21, 2015.

In Lillard’s letter to the State Funding Board, he wrote, “Treasury staff has reviewed the plan of correction and has determined that it meets the requirements of applicable law. I recommend that the State Funding Board approve the plan of correction submitted by the City of Dyersburg. … Of note, the city will be at 100 percent funding of the ADC (Actuarially Determined Contributions) by 2020, as the ADC is determined by the most recent actuarial valuation.”

On Jan. 6, 2016, Mayor Holden received confirmation via letter from state of Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury, Justin P. Wilson, of the approval of the City’s Plan of Correction.

“So I was unaware that we had folks that went to the treasurer, which I think was set up by [Representative] Bill Sanderson and a letter by [Senator] Ed Jackson. The things that concern me are number one, there was a letter that was posted on social media from Jim Horner – I’m sure you’ve all seen it – on Monday night. It was a form letter to [City Treasurer] Steve Anderson about the City of Dyersburg Pension Plan. If you read it like that is, you would seem to think the pension plan has lots of issues with it, and I guess the narrative that goes along with that post. But we reached out to David Lillard about that letter [sent to Anderson] dated December 22 [2017] and received a letter from Lillard yesterday that says:

‘I am writing in response to your inquiry regarding your letter sent to you from the Treasury Department on December 22, 2017 to the City of Dyersburg. Please note that this letter is a form letter that is sent to each political subdivision to find benefit plan outside the Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System that the Treasury Department monitors pursuant to the public employee defined Benefit Financial Security Act. As indicated in my February 15, 2018 letter sent to Senator Ed Jackson, the City of Dyersburg Pension Plan has a Plan of Correction approved by the State Funding Board. To the best of our knowledge, based upon the July 1, 2016 actuarial report, the city is currently in compliance with the Plan of Correction.’”

Mayor Holden continued reading Lillard’s February 15 letter, which discussed further the meeting between Lillard, the 3 City aldermen (Chaney, Kirk, Morgan), and Rep. Sanderson.

The mayor read, “During the meeting, I stated that to the best of my knowledge, based on the documents furnished to the Treasury Department as of June 30, 2016, and updates supplied by letter since that date, that the City is in compliance with the Plan of Correction previously approved by the State Funding Board. I also stated in the meeting that Mayor Holden is correct that the City is currently in compliance with the Plan of Correction based on information currently in our possession. The Treasury Department has not received the Fiscal Year 2017 actuarial report and financial statement for the Dyersburg Pension Plan.

“It goes on to say that, ‘The Dyersburg Plan is the worst funded plan at approximately 7 percent funded pursuant to GASB standards as of July 2016.’

“The worst funded – I don’t think any surprise to you all. We’ve talked about it many times, but I guess what concerns me is the stuff I hear about there’s two sets of books up here, you can’t get any information, you don’t know anything about it. That we had an alderman go and visit city departments and say that the City isn’t solvent – at least that’s what I’ve been told.

Alderman Chaney spoke, stating, “I think you’d be talking about me, probably right there.”

“I am,” replied the mayor.

Chaney said, “I’m going to tell you right now that are exactly the words they used with us…”

“Not according to the treasurer,” interjected Mayor Holden.

“You’re in compliance on a $740,000 payment, tell us in this room how much you pay out every year,” said Chaney.

The mayor noted that city attorney Scott Haight was present, and Chaney directed his question to him.

“There is a benefit payment that has to be paid out in the plan. We have a valuation report that shows what has to be paid out, and it is around-about coming up on $2 million per year. The Plan of Correction provides, it’s a 5-year plan to under the statute, to get up to 100 percent of the annual actuarially determined contribution. That’s the Plan of Correction that’s going to have the City paying around $1.7 million, there is also an employee contribution to the plan.”

“They said that it is unsustainable with our tax base,” said Chaney. “They said that we’re in the worst shape of any city in the state of Tennessee. That was the purpose of our meeting there.”

Haight mentioned that he had spoken with Lillard on Thursday and stated, “He [Lillard] said that he did not say anything like that about the plan. That he has personally reviewed and approved the Plan of Correction and that there is an ongoing challenge. The plan is substantially underfunded. It’s a challenge for the whole board going forward. The board has taken all the actions and complied with the state law. I would say with the 7 percent of the GASB standard, the GASB financial reporting standards they are referring to is not the standard that you use for funding the plan. That number isn’t based upon plan funding. That is a financial number based upon past cash flow that is sort of unrealistically low. If you look at the actuarial plan, it’s running at about 14 to 15 percent. It’ll stay at around that level and won’t start increasing until 2020. It’s going to take years to fix this underfunding problem.”

Chaney remarked that during the meeting he and the other aldermen were told that the plan is “unsustainable on its current trajectory. We’re paying out 2.5 million a year and put $700,000 in it last year, and we’re sinking.”

“That’s not what he said to me, and that’s not what the Plan of Correction provides,” said Haight. “They approved the Plan of Correction because it’s a path to sustainability. Originally, the city was contributing about 6.5 percent of the payroll, which is where that $700,000 number comes from. The Plan of Correction has stepped that number up and I think the current payment is just over $1 million. That’s going to jump up next year, you as aldermen, are going to have to fund the next payment, which is $1.4 million. The year after that, 2020, to get to 100 percent, the board is going to have to fund the next payment, about $1.7 million. The board is going to have to adopt those payments. The board voted and adopted the Plan of Correction, which requires you to make those payments. So far, the board has made the payments that are required.”

Chaney asked the current amount on deposit for retirement, where Haight answered, “It’s about $3.2 million.”

“The obligations are about $37.5 million,” said Chaney.

“That’s under the GASB standard,” replied Haight. “That’s the financial reporting standard. The GASB numbers make the plan look more underfunded than it actually is. It uses a 5-year backward projection of a cash flow based upon the $700,000. Going forward, the city will not be contributing $700,000. It’s stepping up. By 2020, it’s going to be $1.7 million per year, but that GASB standard is still going to look back to the $700,000, so it gives you an inaccurate number. If you look at the funding numbers of the actuarial report, it shows right now, it’s about 14 percent. The GASB funding number is not going to match until about 8 years.

“I don’t know where the difference is in 3 days,” remarked Chaney. “I left there under the impression we were in serious trouble.”

“That was the impression I got,” said Kirk. “Based on the projections, you know what we have to put into it. We have 250 people that if they retired today, they’d get 7 cents on the dollar. That’s the way it was explained to us.”

“Again, that’s a forward number and not everyone can retire,” said the mayor.

“We haven’t had a meeting with an actuarial in a long time or a meeting to talk about it,” said Kirk.

“We had budget meetings, and we talked about it,” said Mayor Holden.

Chaney interjected and said, “We have asked have we been putting enough in there, and everybody says yes, and that’s all we know.”

“We are,” said Mayor Holden. “You’ve got a letter saying that we’re following the Plan of Correction.”

“There’s not enough money,” said Kirk.

“You’ve got 5 years to get there [with the plan],” responded the mayor. “We have 2 years left. We’re funding it based on the plan we submitted, Mr. Kirk.

“That is not what they told us,” said Chaney.

“That’s what this letter says,” stated the mayor.

“You can’t fix the unfunded status overnight,” said Haight. “For the year ended this past year, the benefits paid out were $1.35 million on the pension plan.”

“We were told $2.-something,” said Morgan.

“Well, that’s old information,” said Haight.

Chaney, speaking to Haight, stated, “I appreciate what you’re saying, but they called me when that finance committee was over, just like they did Bob. I had other things to do. I was in Knoxville, Tenn. I came home, and we got in the car and went up there to see what the problem was. I’ve got to tell you, I won’t sleep any better tonight from what you’ve told me today. They got my attention up there. I don’t mean any disrespect, but I’m really concerned about this pension plan.”

If at any time that the city did not have enough funds to put into the plan, Haight mentioned that taxes would have to be raised.

“That’s exactly what they told us,” remarked Chaney. “You don’t have the tax base to correct this – that was exactly their words.”

Kirk asked if the city had to borrow money, would they be denied approval due to the status of the pension plan?

“I know what it looks like now, but it’s better now than it has been in the past 2 or 3 years,” said Anderson. “We’ve borrowed money then. We borrowed money 2 years ago.”

Alderman Glover asked is there was any debt that the city would be paying off in the near future.

Mayor Holden referred to a City of Dyersburg debt service sheet and mentioned that the City of Dyersburg in 2007 had a long-term debt of $13.7 million.

“As of today, our long term debt is $6.1 million. After next year, our debt will be around $5 million. If you remember, we built a new cell at the landfill that we paid for out of the solid waste fund without borrowing additional monies. So, I’m very proud of Steve and the work he’s done.

“To say the city is bankrupt or that the city is financially unsecure, or whatever, I just don’t agree with that characterization of what’s being said.”

“We’re in such good shape we weren’t able to pave any streets or give employees a raise or not do any additional projects. We’re in good shape. This is hanging over our heads, and I hope we have a good recording of this meeting, when in 10 years someone goes to retire and they don’t get but 7 cents on the dollar, they’re going to be up here, too,” said Kirk.

“We’re not saying everything is lovely, I’m saying we’re following the plan that was submitted by the City of Dyersburg that we all voted on,” said Mayor Holden.

In other business, EOC Director Mark Grant gave an update on the radio project as well as a grant that the city has applied for to aid in the cost of the project. Grant stated that he and Fire Chief Tim Ware completed the grant.

“It will probably be about 5 or 6 months before we know anything. I think the final cost that we asked for was $839,000,” said Grant.

“With a 95-5 percent match,” added Ware.

“This is certainly something you could revisit if we’re awarded,” added Grant. “We’ll be starting in March on the timeline. I’ll be getting with Steve on the financial milestones. I had told the board that the local shop was going to have some involvement in the project, and Mr. Kirk wanted me to make sure that the local shop was getting as much of the project as they could get. His concern was the local businesses in Dyersburg that have been participating in the project, and I have spoken to Motorola. Motorola, once they start our timelines, they will get with Mr. Young and make that decision. I don’t know if there is anything we can do if they decide not to do anything. That will be between you all. But we’re certainly trying to take care of our local businesses.

Chief Ware also noted that Fire Captain John Doyle was also instrumental in writing and submitting the grant application.

The city also recently received a project checklist regarding the application for the 2018 LPRF (Local Parks and Recreation Fund) Grant.

“Talking with Andy [Baker, City Parks and Recreation director], what we’ve talked about is getting some spray parks put in. First and foremost down at Bruce, close the existing Bruce pool, and put in a spray park,” said City Construction Inspector Scott Ball. “We have taken LPRF funds for this pool before, so we’ll have to fill out a change of use policy with LPRF to do it,” said Ball. “The other was to put in a spray park over the old wading pool at Okeena and have a spray park over by the downtown Farmers Market.”

Alderman Dennis Moody motioned to approve the projects with a second from Glover. The motion passed.

In a previous meeting, the committee approved to take bids for the demolition of the Jennie Bell School. There were 14 bids that the committee reviewed. The lowest bid came in at $60,000 by Jackson Painting and Remodeling, and the mayor noted that there were funds available for demolition.

On a motion from Kirk and a second from Mayor Holden, the finance committee voted to approve the demolition by Jackson Painting and Remodeling.

Also a brief discussion of energy conservation submittals occurred. Ball stated that the city has met with both Noresco and Siemens Corporation about energy conservation and savings. No official action was taken by the committee on Friday.

With no further business, the meeting adjourned at noon.


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https://www.ai-cio.com/news/us-publi...ule-investing/

Quote:
US Public Pension Funds Break Cardinal Rule of Investing
Research shows that institutional investors rely on past performance to gauge future returns.



Spoiler:
While securities laws require investment literature to clearly state that past performance is no guarantee of future returns, there is no law saying institutional investors have to believe this mantra—and apparently they don’t.

According to a research paper from Stanford Business School, US public pension fund managers regularly break the cardinal rule of investing, and are, in fact, using past performance to gauge what their future returns will be.

“There is a robust relationship between past overall pension fund returns and the assumption about future performance in public equity, where fund performance is not persistent,” said the paper, which was authored by Aleksandar Andonov and Joshua Rauh.

“Even in private equity, the extrapolation of past performance is driven by old instead of recent investments and cannot be reconciled with a rational extrapolation of skill in selecting and retaining better managers,” Andonov and Rauh wrote. “Therefore, our paper provides suggestive evidence that pension plans excessively extrapolate past performance when formulating return expectations.”

The research also found that pension fund past performance affects real return assumptions across all “risky asset classes,” which it defines as assets such as public equity, real assets, private equity, and hedge funds.

And to make matters worse, struggling public pensions are even more likely to rely on historical data to determine performance expectations, according to the findings.

“State and local governments that are more fiscally stressed by higher unfunded pension liabilities assume higher portfolio returns,” said the paper, “and are more likely to do so through higher inflation assumptions than higher real returns.”

The research drew upon data on allocations and return expectations by asset class, which was collected from required disclosures of all US public pension funds, which in aggregate manage approximately $4 trillion in assets.

“While the relationship between beliefs and past experience has been clearly demonstrated for retail investors,” said the paper, “our study is the first that we are aware of to make this determination for institutional investors.”

US governmental accounting standards rules require pension plans to report long-term expected rates of return by asset class as part of a justification of the plan’s overall long-term rate of return assumption.

“This disclosure separately reveals institutional investor expectations about returns in individual asset classes such as public equity, fixed income, private equity, hedge funds, and other asset classes,” said the paper. “It is the only setting of which we are aware in which a large sample of institutional investors expresses their expected returns by asset class, alongside their targeted asset allocation.”


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