A newly created panel may find a way to tap the city’s flush pension accounts to get some cash to cover costly health care for retired municipal workers.
If the new GASB 45 Committee, named for an accounting rule, determines that it can tap the money, taxpayers could save more than $1 million annually, officials said.
The first meeting of the new committee is slated for 5 p.m. Wednesday in the City Council chambers at City Hall.
Mayor Art Ward said he’s eager to have the issue explored thoroughly to determine if savings are possible for taxpayers.
The 13-person panel includes Comptroller Glenn Klocko, city Councilors Ken Cockayne and Cliff Block, city attorney Dale Clift and the presidents of each of the city’s unions.
Klocko said the initial session will devote an hour to explaining the issue in some depth to members and others who are interested in the subject.
He said that a PowerPoint slide show will cover the reason the city has to have a plan for tackling the costly post-employment benefits that workers receive in addition to their pensions, the legal rules governing the use of pension money and the actuarial figures involved.
“We’re going to show them the facts and figures,” Klocko said.
Klocko said once the committee has the information, its members will discuss what should be done, if anything.If a recommendation to pursue the idea is adopted, city councilors would have to give their approval, he said.
Those pushing the concept, including Cockayne, have long argued that taking some of the surplus cash in the city’s overfunded pension accounts and putting it a new trust for health care for retired workers would help everyone.
The city has a long-term plan to use tax money to fill the new health care fund, but doing it will require ever increasing funds to meet the demand and get ahead of the costs.
The city’s unions have been at best skeptical of the idea, claiming it risks losing pension money that may well be needed. They also say the city should negotiate any change with them.
Klocko said he hopes the information gathered by his office, the city’s pension lawyer and actuarial experts will aid in understanding the issue.
“We’re going to clear the misconceptions up,” he said.
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