FOP “done talking” with city about pension reform |

Representatives from the city and the Fraternal Order of Police meet on Wednesday, October 31, 2012 to discuss the proper venue in which to have talks about reforming the police pension system

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The message from the Fraternal Order of Police to the city was clear: Take pension discussions up with the Police and Fire Pension Fund or we’ll see you in court.

City representatives met with the FOP at their lodge on Beach Blvd. Wednesday to discuss the conflict between the police union and the city, but there wasn’t much to discuss.  Police union president Nelson Cuba called the city’s current plan for police officers “disgraceful” and “a slap in the face” to the officers who go out and put their lives on the line in a very dangerous job.  The mayor’s police pension reform proposal calls for officers to work 27 years instead of 20 before collecting pension and raises police contributions to their own pensions from 7 to 14 percent per paycheck.

Cuba went on to say that the city set up a pension system for police with the PFPF, not the FOP, in 2001 that does not expire until 2030, so they say there’s no point in talking pension reform when the agreement isn’t even with them.

“If we’re blessed enough to make it through this career, and survive, then we were hoping that this community, this city, would keep their promise to us and give us what we’ve earned.  It’s not a handout, we’re not welfare recipients.  We’ve worked for this, we’ve earned it, and in my opinion, we deserve everything we get.”

Cuba then read a letter addressed to the mayor’s offce, calling for them to take the pension negotiations to the PFPF because that is where the current pension agreement, which was passed in 2001, lies.  The mayor’s office has argued that Florida law says the city is allowed to begin discussions with the collective bargaining unit, which is the police union.  Assistant general counsel Derrel Chatmon tried to ask Cuba a few questions about some of his concerns, but Cuba told Chatmon there’s nothing left to discuss.

“I’m not going to talk about it.  I’m done talking.  Take it to the courts,” said Cuba.

Cuba says he doesn’t understand why the mayor waited until nearly 18 months after he was elected to tackle pension reform, saying that Mayor Peyton had already laid a plan out on the table that could have been worked on or tweaked.

“HE chose to ignore it for 18 months and now he starts screaming ‘The sky is falling! The sky is falling!'”

Chatmon says the city wants to resolve the matter peacefully and is considering several ways it can move foward from this point, though he wasn’t specific on what those ways would be.  He added that although they’d prefer to avoid a lawsuit, certain things are unavoidable sometimes.

“There are other avenues to be taken and this isn’t the end, it’s just the beginning,” said Chatmon. “It’s always a matter of trying to resolve things out of court, I don’t care what the entity happens to be….but at the same time, what has to take place has to take place.”

Cuba compared the situation to one the Jaguars were facing before the start of the season with RB Maurice Jones-Drew holding out of training camp and owner Shad Khan refusing to give the star tailback a new contract when he still had two years left on his current one.

“I like our position.  I believe we’re Shad Khan, we’re the Jaguars, and they’re Maurice Jones-Drew.  They can come to the table under good terms and try to make a deal or they’re going to have to live with what’s in place until 2030, period.”

Whatever tensions may have been present during the meeting quickly vanished afterward, at least temporarily, as Chatmon walked over to Cuba to give him a firm handshake and chat on the side for a bit.  The two sides are slated to meet again November 14.

via FOP “done talking” with city about pension reform |

Can Taxpayers Afford Minnesota’s Pension Plans?

Can Taxpayers Afford Minnesota’s Pension Plans?

How would you like to collect $14,000 a month, for life, in retirement? It’s possible and legal under Minnesota’s pension plans. 

Take Kenneth Young. He’s at the top of the list.

Young, a former Hennepin County worker, collects the highest annual pension of any retiree in the county – $183,000 a year.

David Landswerk was the Superintendent of the Wayzata School District. He collects the highest annual pension for a retired educator – $176,000.

There are retired public workers from all walks of life that collect a six figure pension. Like one time Hennepin County Administrator Dale Ackmann, who gets $170,000 a year. Retired Ramsey County Sheriff Charles Zacharias collects $157,000 a year.

We counted 312 six-figure pensions in Minnesota as we checked records of the three biggest state pension programs. We looked further and found 165,000 Minnesotans received a total of $3.4 billion dollars in benefits from state and local pension plans in 2009.

Here’s how a public pension works:  important to know because you help pay for it.  An employee contributes 13% of their income to a pension.  Their public employer contributes 14%.  The money is invested and the gains from those investments make up the remaining 73% of an employees promised pension.  If the investment return doesn’t match or exceed what’s needed to make up that 73%, the money must come from somewhere.

Right now, the state is $246 million short of that difference on a yearly basis.  Taxpayers make up the rest.  One more thing, public employees are guaranteed a return on their investment of 8%.  That’s down from 8.5% last year.

Jim Tobin with Taxpayers United of America studies public pensions, including Minnesota’s.  He says the state can’t keep doing this indefinitely.

Richard Maus is a typical pensioner.  He’s a retired teacher from the Robbinsdale School District and collects $30,000 a year in retirement benefits.  He says he contributed more than $300,000 to his pension during his career.  Maus calls it a promise between him and the state.  The state got his money and now it’s time they start to pay me back.

The average pension for a retired teacher in Minnesota is about $28,000 a year.  Laurie Hacking runs one of the state’s three main pension plans.  Hacking says the state has been disciplined, proactive and really has had fairly modest benefit levels.

When the economy crashed in 2008, lawmakers made some reforms to pension plans.  Dave Bergstrom is with the MSRS, Minnesota State Retirement System.  He says we reduced our overall costs by $6 billion by freezing cost of living adjustments and tweaking other benefits.

Those reforms don’t stop a select group of people from earning two, even three public pensions.  It’s completely legal, state law allows it.

We knocked on doors, sent dozens of letters and found many of them reluctant to talk about doubling or tripling up.  Only Ramsey County Commissioner Tony Bennett would sit down with us.

Bennett collects $54,000 a year as a retired St. Paul Cop.  Another $17,000 a year for his time as a state legislator and now earns a salary of $84,000 a year as a Commissioner.  When he retires, Bennett will collect a third pension that he is entitled to.  That makes him what some call a triple dipper – something opponents raised when he ran unsuccessfully for reelection as a County Commissioner earlier this year.  To his critics he says: “I guess I would say some of them ought to walk in the shoes of the people who have had to do them.  I don’t begrudge any police officer or fireman, or soldier today who is getting a pension from anything and what they’ve had to go through”.

How many double or triple dippers are there?  We looked, we checked, we can’t tell you.  The state doesn’t keep track.  Minnesota’s pension system is running to catch up with its’ commitments.

Representative Morrie Lanning – District 9A – wishes the general public were more tuned in.  As a state lawmaker, Lanning sees potential trouble.  A look at the recent Pew Center Study and you’ll see why.  it reveals Minnesota pensions are 80% funded.  That means, for every dollar paid to a pensioner, the state is 20-cents short.  Lanning says if we don’t do the right things with regards to pensions the taxpayers are going to have to pay more in the future.  Lanning thinks the state needs to look at lowering the rate of return promised to state employees.

Lawrence Martin oversees pension law at the capitol and helps write it.  He sees two options: either the members or employers are going to have to pay more or there will be additional taxes for the state in the form of incomes, sales or property taxes.

Critics of public pensions suggest a private sector solution like  401K or Social Security.

Even retired teacher Richard Maus agrees, in order to keep the state’s pension plans afloat, change has to happen.  Maus say’s it’s a fixable, rational, recognizable problem, but the longer the state waits, the bigger the bump it’s going to take.

The three main public pension plans are: MSRS, the Minnesota State Retirement System, TRA, Teachers Retirement System and PERA, Public Employee’s Retirement Association.  Police officers, firefighters, sheriff’s deputies, correctional officers, teachers, administrators, college faculty, state employees, some Met council workers, judges, city & county workers qualify.

Links for KSTP’s Pension Investigation 

PERA (Public Employees Retirement Association) Fact vs. Myth on Pensions

TRA (Teacher’s Retirement Association) Pensions Pump Billions Into MN Economy

MSRS (Minnesota State Retirement System) Pensions Are a Shared Responsibility

PEW Study on Charitable Trusts

Top 10 Pension Earners in Each Plan

PERA – Public Employee Retirement Association

1. Kenneth Young        $15,250/month          $183,011/year
2. Edward Eberhardt     $14,578                   $174,946
3. Dale Ackmann          $14,180                  $170,162
4. Ellen McCauley         $13,422                  $161, 070
5. Robert Zeleznikar       $13,337                  $160,051
6. Joseph Bianchi         $13,308                   $159,707
7. Thomas Thompson    $13,178                   $158,146
8. Verne Jacobsen        $13,141                    $157,698
9. Charles Zacharias      $13,096                   $157,162
10. Richard Fritzke         $12,909                  $154,918


1. Richard Braun       $11,824/month        $141,888/year
2. Homer Saetre         $10,797                 $129,564
3. Lawrence Yetka      $10,509                 $126,108
4. John Schindler        $10,274                 $123,288
5. John Harbinson       $10,081                 $120,972
6. Nina Archabal         $10,022                 $120,264
7. Ralph Church          $9,837                   $118,044
8. William Crawford     $9,562                   $114,744
9. John Daly               $9,307                   $111,684
10. Patrick Flahaven    $9,230                   $110,760


1. David Landswerk    $14,749/month     $176,988/year
2. Leila Anderson        $14,066              $168,792
3. Douglas Anderson   $13,518              $162,216
4. Gerald Kleve           $12,679              $152,148
5. Edward Boegemann $12,621              $151,452
6. Patricia McGuire      $12,350             $148,200
7. Joseph Foegen         $12,276             $147,312
8. Daniel Mjolsness      $12,132              $145,584
9. Chris Huber              $12,039              $144,468
10. Frank Brendemuehl $11,846              $142,152

Make military policy clear | TheGazette

The University of Northern Iowa considers itself a “military-friendly” institution and has been designated as such by a military-related magazine.

The university also takes pride in providing personal support and assistance to all military service members. So we hope that perception and designation aren’t impacted by recent developments.

National Guard Specialist James Roethler, a UNI freshman who has served a tour in Afghanistan, has filed a grievance against a professor who he said refused to allow him to make up a test he missed while attending an out-of-state Guard drill.

If true, such a denial wouldn’t seem to mix with university intentions.

Included in the UNI website is a link titled “Resources for Military/Veterans and Their Families.”

The last two sentences on that page read:

“With veterans becoming an increasingly important part of the student body, we are continually enhancing our services to meet your unique educational and personal needs and responsibilities. You can trust UNI to provide military-friendly service at all levels.”

Roethler’s responsibilities included a four-day National Guard drill in Wisconsin.

UNI President Ben Allen said in a prepared statement that he “strongly disagrees with the decision made by the professor in this case.”

He added: “We have been working with the student involved from the beginning, and continue to work with him to help ensure he won’t be penalized for serving his country.”

For the past three years, UNI has been included in the Military Friendly Schools List published by G.I. Jobs magazine, which recognizes the top 15 percent of colleges, universities and trade schools that are supporting the educational pursuits of veterans. We can be proud that the state university in this community is recognized on that list.

Roethler said psychology professor Cathy DeSoto told him and another soldier they would have to take a zero on the test. However, as a part of the class policy, students are allowed to drop their lowest score from the final grade.

If this were the only issue, it would be our belief that any Guard member, missing a test because of Guard responsibilities, should be allowed the opportunity to take each and every test.

“The reason we both really didn’t want to take the dropped test route is because if we have another drill or another obligation, that policy doesn’t state if a natural disaster happens and we get called up to the National Guard in that time of disaster that still doesn’t cover it,” Roethler said.

That seems reasonable enough.

For her part, DeSoto said, in a prepared statement, that UNI “does not have professors who would have policies that would have undue negative influence on students who miss classes for reasonable purposes, in which National Guard duty clearly applies.”

DeSoto says the policy in place requires students to “make a good-faith effort to talk to the professor and try to resolve the concerns informally” and that was not done.

Roethler, on the other hand, said he went to DeSoto on Oct. 15 to discuss a possible makeup exam.

So, we don’t know all the particulars and it is our hope that those are made clear through this grievance process.

In the end, this may be an instance where the university — in continued efforts to be military-friendly — needs to set an institution-wide policy, instead of leaving such decisions to individual instructors.

via Make military policy clear | TheGazette.

Another Fire Union Contract On The Table

The Omaha City Council has announced the latest tentative agreement on a new contract with firefighters.

The deal runs through December 2014. It calls for wage increases of an average of 1.6 percent per year over the duration of he contract. The agreement also calls for the end of pension spiking and increases employee contributions to health and pension benefits.

The deal must now gain approval from the union rank and file, the personnel board and then the full City Council.

via Another Fire Union Contract On The Table.

No Teacher Evaluations On Halloween … And Other Odd Union Contract Provisions [Michigan Capitol Confidential]

The classroom temperature can’t be above 90 degrees Fahrenheit in the Watervliet Public Schools in Berrien County, according to the teachers’ union contract, with one exception — when the temperature outdoors exceeds 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

In the Ann Arbor Public Schools in Washtenaw County, the teachers’ union contract states that the administration can’t use polygraph machines on its teachers when doing an investigation.

In the Muskegon Public Schools, the teachers’ union contract states that teacher evaluations can’t be done on Halloween or St. Valentine’s Day.

In the Kalamazoo Public Schools, a struggling high school coach could have his or her teaching and coaching jobs on the line if he or she is removed as coach. The teachers’ union contract states that if the school board gives specified coaching jobs to a coach, that person has to keep that coaching position for six years or he or she also loses the teaching position. Kalamazoo Public Schools Spokesman Alex Lee said if a coach is let go before the six years is up, he or she is reassigned to a different teaching job within the district.

A review of teachers’ union contracts across the state shows the lengths to which the government unions will go to protect certain privileges or perks.

And it highlights what kinds of things Proposal 2 could protect if it is approved by voters next week. Clearly, no subject matter is too small, insignificant or bizarre for government unions to include in a contract.

“If you think this is ludicrous in a collective bargaining contract, wait until it is part of the (state) constitution and there is nothing you can do about it,” said Charles Owens, state director of the National Federation of Independent Business.

For example, the Manistee Area Public Schools teachers’ union contract states that visitors — such as parents who come to a classroom — are to be told that anything they witness regarding students is strictly confidential and can not be discussed outside the classroom.

In the Royal Oak School District in Oakland County, no teacher can be formally reprimanded in the presence of parents, students or bargaining unit members unless that bargaining member is representing them.

And in the Williamston Community Schools in Ingham County, math skills are a must when reviewing the teacher’s contract. Consider the formula for determining how many leave days a part-time teacher gets (pictured above).

“It’s difficult to determine what motivated provisions such as these, but it’s unlikely it had anything to do with helping schools better educate students,” said Michael Van Beek, education policy director at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. “Regardless of their intent, provisions such as these leave districts more vulnerable to union-led grievances and lawsuits, which divert resources from teaching students to settling labor disputes.”


via No Teacher Evaluations On Halloween … And Other Odd Union Contract Provisions [Michigan Capitol Confidential].

Pension reform demands action in KC | Midwest Voices

Kansas City Star Editorial

At yet another private meeting today, Kansas City police, fire and union leaders will argue with City Manager Troy Schulte and other city staff members over pension reform.

Supposedly, these closed-door sessions over the last several months have led to some reasonable ways to change retirement plans that Schulte has called “unsustainable.”

Properly so, City Council member Jan Marcason is keeping pressure on all sides to come forward with a plan at a council committee meeting Wednesday morning.

The situation is dire but not out of hand — yet. The city’s unfunded pension liabilities jumped from $559 million to $611 million between 2011 and 2012.

A task force last year recommended a solid, basic framework for reform. These points ought to be in Schulte’s plan:

Increase the employee contribution rate by 1 percent.

Reduce the mostly automatic 3 percent annual cost-of-living adjustment.

Require employees to work longer to increase their final retirement pay.

Create a defined contribution system, like a 401(k), for some management employees.

Action is required by 2013 to control pension costs so the city can provide better basic services and give realistic benefits to current and future retirees.

via Pension reform demands action in KC | Midwest Voices.

Pension reform recommendations revealed in Frankfort | Kentucky Politics

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) A panel of lawmakers has heard recommendations for reforming Kentucky’s public pension plan in an effort to make it solvent.

The Courier-Journal and the Lexington Herald-Leader report that the options were presented Monday to a state task force by thePewCenteron the States and the Laura and John Arnold Foundation. Their recommendations included decreasing tax credits, issuing pension bonds, requiring bigger employee contributions and paying out less to future workers.

The state’s pension systems are facing unfunded liabilities of $33 billion. Lawmakers say they hope to pass a reform effort during next year’s legislative session.

“While the choices will be hard, ultimately this is a solvable problem,” thePewCentersaid in its written report to the task force. “But ifKentuckycontinues to delay, it could become an unmanageable crisis. This task force has the chance to make a real, lasting improvement inKentucky’s fiscal health and put the commonwealth on a credible path towards closing its funding gap.”

Democratic Rep. Mike Cherry ofPrincetonco-chairs the task force and said members will discuss options and vote on recommendations late next month. He said lawmakers thought they had addressed the pension shortfall with legislation passed in 2008, but those changes have been inadequate to address the problems.

Some lawmakers said they are hesitant to change retirement benefits or ask workers to contribute more pay.

“We don’t want to hit the employees any harder than they’ve already been hit. If we do, we’re going to lose our employees,” said Rep. Brent Yonts, D-Greenville.

Republican Sen. Damon Thayer ofGeorgetown, who co-chairs the panel, said it’s not reasonable to ask taxpayers to pay more to finance public pensions that are better than many have in the private sector.

“The taxpayers who fund public pensions … we have to be cognizant of their role in this equation,” he said. “We’ve got some tough decisions to make.”

via Pension reform recommendations revealed in Frankfort | Kentucky Politics.

Brown says proposed police pension reform will save $1.5 billion

Mayor Alvin Brown on Monday unveiled his pension reform plan for police employees, which he estimates will save $1.5 billion over 30 years but trims benefits in several areas and eliminates others.

“It’s a plan that’s fair to City employees, fair to taxpayers,” Brown said.

Under the plan, police employees would double their current retirement contributions, work longer before being eligible to retire and not collect benefits until a later age, among other proposals.

Several proposed changes in Brown’s plan, including how they compare to the current plan and former Mayor John Peyton’s proposal that was not approved:

• A pension start date for vested and terminated members at age 60. That means members could start to take their pension at that age, up from the current normal retirement date. Peyton proposed the age of 55 with 10 years of service or age 65 with five years but less than 10 years of service at termination.

• The employee pre-tax contribution to the plan would double, from the current 7 percent, to 14 percent. Peyton proposed an 8 percent contribution rate.

• Annual employee benefits would be capped at $99,999.99, ensuring no one collected a six-figure benefit. There is no cap under the current plan, nor was there one in Peyton’s plan.

• The retirement age would be bumped up to 27 years of service at any age, up from the current 20 years. Peyton’s plan called for 25 years of service before retirement.

• Benefit accrual rates would drop to 1.67 percent for all years of service and subject to a cap of 50 percent at 30 years. That rate is down from the current 3 percent for the first 20 years followed by 2 percent for 10 years and a cap of 80 percent at 30 years.

• The final average pay for employees would be based on the last five years of service instead of the last two, which is the current rate. Peyton’s plan also had a five-year benchmark.

Brown’s plan also would eliminate two additional perks: an annual cost-of-living adjustment and the Deferred Retirement Option Program, commonly referred to as DROP.

Under the current plan, eligible employees receive a 3 percent cost-of-living adjustment that begins as soon as three months after the option program. Under Peyton’s plan, it was capped at 3 percent and began two years after employee termination.

The deferred retirement program allows retirement-eligible employees to remain in the workforce to accrue benefits in addition to those already received.

Under the current plan, employees could enter the program after 20 years of service, while Peyton’s plan would have altered the timeline.

According to the City, the proposed pension plan would save $1.5 billion over 30 years, up from Peyton’s proposed $700 million over 35 years and the current plan of no savings.

The City said the changes, combined with a lowered assumed rate of return – from 7.75 percent to 6.9 percent, would trigger those savings and put the City back on track to fully fund the plan.

Police and Fire Pension Fund advisers projected the 6.9 percent return rate is more realistic for investments over the next 10 years.

The City contributed $150 million from the general fund toward pension plans in the fiscal 2012-13 budget approved in late September.

Of that, $121 million went toward police and firefighter personnel.

According to the City, if it lowered the rate of return without changing benefits within the plan, that figure would balloon to an estimated $181 million for fiscal 2013-14.

With the changes, the contribution would be an estimated $133 million – up almost $11 million from the year before, but fully funded.

Brown said the $48 million saved in next year’s budget would equate to about 800 City employees keeping their jobs. The $48 million is derived from lowering the assumption rate but making no plan changes.

Brown said the plan will not affect current retired employees, but would affect the benefits of current employees for those benefits accrued after a plan start date, should it be approved.

The plan was presented Monday to Fraternal Order of Police local leadership.

Asked Monday whether he thought its leadership

would approve the plan, Brown said he was


Similar plans will be rolled out to different unions, including firefighters, this week.

via Brown says proposed police pension reform will save $1.5 billion.

Contra Costa pension board to follow state law but faces legal fight – San Jose Mercury News

CONCORD — Contra Costa County’s retirement system board will comply with a new state pension rule and apply an anti-spiking provision to potentially thousands of current public employees.

In a tortured 7-2 vote Tuesday, the Contra Costa Employees’ Retirement Association board officially recognized legislation that starting Jan. 1, 2013, bans the inclusion in retirement calculations of so-called “terminal pay” — unused vacation, holiday, administrative or sick leave — in excess of what workers would normally earn in a single year.

The retirement board already eliminated the perk for new employees hired after Jan. 1, 2011.

The state legislation is one of the few pension reform provisions signed into law in September that targets current employees’ benefits. Most of the reductions apply only to new workers.

AFSCME Local 512 President Richard Cabral and former Contra Costa probation supervisor Jerry Telles cast the two no votes. Their opposition came despite the association attorney’s admonition that flouting state law would jeopardize members’ nontaxable Internal Revenue Service status.

Public employee union leaders immediately after the vote declared plans to seek a court injunction blocking local implementation, pending the outcome of expected litigation.

“We will file a lawsuit as soon as practicable,” said Contra Costa Deputy Sheriffs Association President Ken Westermann, who estimates his members would lose 15 percent

or more of their retirement income if the law goes into effect. “These are vested rights and the courts have consistently said they cannot be taken away once promised.”

The twist in the nearly three-hour public hearing came when three retirement board members openly welcomed a legal challenge as the fastest path to resolution.

Ignoring the new law would put members’ retirement at risk if courts later uphold the legislation, said Brian Hast, a Contra Costa deputy district attorney elected to the association board by the retirement system’s general members.

“It is a distasteful move but a necessary move,” Hast said. “We need to get this before a judge. A judge is the only one with the power to make a final and binding decision that will guarantee this vested right to our members.”

Hast’s stance was unpopular among the several hundred mostly public employees who packed the hotel conference meeting room and urged the association to reject the new law and fight on their behalf.

“This is unconscionable,” said a Contra Costa social worker with 21 years on the job. “We have already suffered 9 percent cuts in salary in benefits. We’ve had no cost of living increase for years … I’m shocked this would even be considered.”

The sole nonpublic employee speaker was retired business executive Dennis Fitzpatrick, of Orinda, who warned of unsustainable pension debts.

“I feel like I am in an anteroom on the Titanic three days before the iceberg,” he said. “You have all been deceived by the politicians who have run our county into this position.”

Contra Costa is one of three county retirement systems in California that include terminal pay in the pension formula. Alameda and Merced counties have already moved to comply with state law and eliminate the perk.

It permits a worker to accumulate unused vacation, holiday and sick leave, convert the value to cash at the time of retirement and boost his or her final pension check.

Analysts put the value of terminal pay at a range of $4 to $24 out of every $100 in final average wage, one of three factors used to calculate workers’ retirement benefit amount. The most generous amount goes to those who retire from the Contra Costa Central Sanitary District, according to the association’s 2011 actuarial valuation.

But it is unclear how many of the pension system’s 8,629 working members and the 2,214 people who have deferred their retirements will see pension income losses as a result of the rule change.

Not every current public employee is eligible for terminal pay. For vested employees, the perk varies depending on labor contracts negotiated between the agency and each union. Contra Costa County, which is more than 80 percent of the retirement system’s rolls, has 15 employee unions.

Other member agencies include the San Ramon, Moraga-Orinda and East Contra Costa fire districts, Central Contra Costa Sanitary District and Superior Court.

via Contra Costa pension board to follow state law but faces legal fight – San Jose Mercury News.