Stories indexed with the term ‘pension fund’

Public Hearing Held For Halted Bond Proposal

Though a controversial bond proposal had been pulled from the agenda last week, the Washtenaw County board of commissioners held a previously scheduled public hearing for that proposal at its July 10, 2013 meeting. The bonding of potentially up to $345 million was intended to cover unfunded pension and retiree healthcare obligations. The board had set the public hearing at its meeting on June 5, 2013, and had also intended to take initial votes on July 10 on several items related to the bonding.

However, on Wednesday, July 3, board chair Yousef Rabhi and county administrator Verna McDaniel issued a joint statement announcing a decision not to put the bond-related items on the July 10 agenda. They cited the … [Full Story]

County to Push Back Vote on Bond Proposal

Action on a controversial bond proposal to cover unfunded pension and retiree healthcare obligations will not take place at a July 10, 2013 meeting of the Washtenaw County board of commissioners as had originally been planned. The decision not to put bond-related items on the July 10 agenda was made this week and announced on Wednesday, July 3.

Washtenaw County board of commissioners, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

County administrator Verna McDaniel, standing, at a June 27, 2013 public forum to discuss a major bonding proposal. Seated from the left are county commissioners Yousef Rabhi and Andy LaBarre, and former Ann Arbor Public Schools trustee Bob Rorke.

A joint statement by board chair Yousef Rabhi and county administrator Verna McDaniel, posted on the county’s website late Wednesday afternoon, cited the need to address questions and concerns that had been raised by commissioners and the public, as well as uncertainty related to the state approval process that’s required for this type of bonding.

Just last week, McDaniel held a public forum to provide information about the bonding process. At the June 27 forum, which was attended primarily by county staff and former or current elected officials, McDaniel presented only two options: (1) issue bonds to cover the full amount of unfunded liabilities, estimated to total more than $250 million, or (2) implement dramatic cuts in county services and programs.

This had been the administration’s approach since first publicly floating the idea in mid-April, and since work started on the plan privately in November 2012. A website devoted to the bond proposal, posted last month, includes a list of potential cuts to discretionary programs if the bonding did not move forward. The cuts include items like the elimination of 12 sheriff deputy road patrol positions and cutting the Washtenaw Health Plan. [.pdf of discretionary cuts] [.pdf of implications for county funding to outside agencies]

A public hearing on the bond proposal was held on June 5, and the board had voted to schedule another public hearing – to be held on July 10. The June 5 public hearing drew four people who all expressed caution about the possible action, as some attendees suggested a millage or additional budget cuts to cover the retiree obligations – instead of bonding.

Some commissioners have also asked whether alternatives to a bonding approach might also be viable, but the administration has not provided other options. The plan put forward by the administration was to bond for up to $345 million, although officials believed the amount would be lower than that, pending an updated actuarial report. A preliminary report, delivered late last month, has set the total of unfunded liabilities at $295,115,000 according to Rabhi.

This is the second time that action has been pushed back. Items related to the bonding proposal were originally slated for the May 15, 2013 agenda, but Rabhi pulled those items from the agenda after concerns were raised that the process was moving too quickly for adequate public input and board deliberation. [Full Story]

Ann Arbor City Council Gets Budget Preview

At Monday night’s city council working session, city administrator Roger Fraser introduced a recommended budget for fiscal year 2010 (beginning July 2009)  of about $85 million, down from the almost $91 million budget in FY 2009. Declining revenues from property taxes, together with increasing contributions to the pension fund means that for FY 2010, the equivalent of 34 full-time positions at the city  would be eliminated, followed by 22 full-time positions in FY 2011. If implemented, the cuts would reduce the city workforce from 800 to 746 by 2011 – a number that has declined from a peak of 1,005 city workers in 2001.

A range of other recommendations include closing Mack pool for the summer, eliminating funding for the civic band and Project Grow, and increasing the water utility’s safety services fee by 4%.

The timeline for the budget’s adoption will include an April 14 town hall meeting at 7 p.m. at the CTN studios on South Industrial. That will be followed by public hearings on May 4, with council adopting a budget with any amendments on May 18. If council fails to act on the budget or to amend it by its second meeting in May, then per the city charter, the budget as submitted by the city administrator is automatically adopted.

The park advisory commission will hold a public hearing next Tuesday, April 21, on the recommendations related to parks, before voting on its recommendation. [Full Story]

Column: Stew on This

For the past several months I have been attending the city of Ann Arbor’s pension board meetings. At the last meeting on Nov. 20, the atmosphere in the room was a little quieter than it had been in previous months. The city of Ann Arbor Employees’ Retirement System board of trustees was preparing to receive the latest report on the monthly performance of the city’s Pension Fund.

Willie Powell, the executive director of the retirement system, needed a couple of tries to get the grim news out: plan assets had dropped $30 million (preliminary) in October, and combined with a $50 million drop in September, the asset value was now just below $300 million – down 33% year to date. I noticed a definite groan coming from the vicinity of Tom Crawford, chief financial officer for the city of Ann Arbor. [Full Story]