+ Out of the jaws of victory
Recently our Town Commission and town manager have done a responsible job of “stopping the bleeding” from our underfunded employee pension plans by freezing them. However, they have not yet addressed a solution to the current $28 million unfunded pension/taxpayer liability. It is important to note that nearly 50% of that liability was not market-driven, but created by previous commissions’ policy and benefit-increase decisions like the one our most recent commission made Aug. 14.
Curiously, and without regard to the above financial crisis and previous commission decisions’ impact, they went ahead and approved a new pension DROP and early-retirement plan for eight town general employees.
That same benefit, as approved in August, was not granted to our firefighters in recent contract negotiations.
We have an excellent town staff, and they are compensated well above the market rate for comparable jobs. The employees also have a generous 401(k) plan. So, why?
This decision was purportedly based on “fairness” and actuarial future financial projections based on a 7.75% return. This, despite the general pension return of 5.6% over the past 20 years. So, it is logical to assume that we have another unfunded train wreck coming down the taxpayer tracks to add to our current pension financial mess.
Also, there is an unhealthy, insidious undercurrent perception by some commissioners that all Longboaters are so well off that they can continue to afford these financial decisions being made by the commission.
Our thanks to Vice Mayor David Brenner and Commissioners Lynn Larson and Phill Younger for trying to put fiscal responsibility and taxpayers first. These commissioners bring rationality to a completely broken pension system. Only a rational retirement system based on historical reality, not lollipops and roses projections, can benefit both employees and taxpayers.
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Commissioner Lynn Larson’s three grandchildren, Zander, 9, Zora, 8, and Zoe Ramsey, 5, got a close-up look at what Longboat Key police and firefighters do to keep residents safe earlier this month, during a tour of the police and north fire stations.