On Ballot: Retirement Board Composition

At its Aug. 15, 2011 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council voted to place before voters on Nov. 8 a charter amendment to alter the composition of the board of trustees for the city’s retirement system.

The composition of the nine-member body as currently set forth in the charter is as follows: “(1) The City Administrator and the Controller to serve by virtue of their respective offices; (2) Three Trustees appointed by the Council and to serve at the pleasure of the Council; (3) Two Trustees elected by the general city members from their own number (general city members being members other than Policemen and Firemen members); and (4) Two Trustees elected by the Policemen and Firemen members from their own number.”

The proposed change would retain nine members but would distribute them differently: (1) the city controller; (2) five citizens; (3) one from the general city employees; and (4) one each from police and fire.

If the measure passes on Nov. 8, it will still need to be ratified by the city’s collective bargaining units in order to take effect.

In 2005, a “blue ribbon” commission – tasked to make recommendations about the city’s retirement board and the city’s pension plan – had called for a change in the board’s composition to be a majority of trustees who are not beneficiaries of the retirement plan and, in particular, to remove the city administrator’s position from the board.

In 2008, a member of the retirement system’s board of trustees, Robert N. Pollack, Jr., resigned from the board in part due to the city’s failure to enact recommendations of the blue ribbon panel. [.pdf of blue ribbon panel report] [.pdf of Pollack's resignation letter]

Under the terms of new city administrator Steve Powers’ contract, he will not be a beneficiary of the city’s retirement plan, but will instead have a 401(a) plan.

The city’s retirement program is supported in part by the levy of a retirement benefits millage [labeled CITY BENEFITS on tax bills], currently at a rate of 2.056 mills, which is the same rate as the city’s transit millage. A mill is equal to $1 for every $1,000 of taxable value of a property.

This brief was filed from the city council’s chambers on the second floor of city hall, located at 301 E. Huron. A more detailed report will follow: [link]