January 2, 2009

Cockayne hails revamped GASB 45 panel

Revamping a city panel looking into the possibility of using surplus pension cash to cover retirees’ health care offers hope for hard-pressed taxpayers, says the city councilor who has pushed hardest for the plan.

City Councilor Ken Cockayne, a freshman Republican, said he’s glad that Mayor Art Ward removed union members who had a conflict-of-interest serving on the first incarnation of the GASB 45 Committee.

“I commend the mayor for taking the action he did correcting the mistake,” Cockayne said.

 “We all make mistakes,” Cockayne said, and he’s content that Ward recognized the initial 19-member panel wasn’t the right answer. The new committee has seven members.

The GASB 45 Committee, named for an accounting rule, will examine the prospects for saving millions for taxpayers by transferring pension fund excesses to new accounts set up to cover the future tab for health care coverage for retirees.

With experts telling the city it needs $72 million to fund the new accounts, it’s clear that the city has to consider seriously the option of using money that’s already available instead of trying to hike taxes for many years to come, the councilor said.

Cockayne, who was appointed to the original committee, blasted Ward at the time for putting at least nine union-connected members on the 19-person panel the mayor created. He also called Ward “cowardly” for not serving on the panel himself.

After terming Cockayne’s charges “totally disgusting,” Ward removed Cockayne from the committee.

But when the panel’s chairman, T.J. Barnes, asked the mayor to cut the size of the panel to seven and cease including beneficiaries on the committee, Ward agreed.

Cockayne said he erred in calling the mayor a coward.

“I do apologize for calling the mayor a coward,” Cockayne said. “I let my passion get the best of me.”

Cockayne said the issue is of crucial importance for the community because it could mean lower mill rates for years to come.

“This issue is win-win for everyone,” Cockayne said.


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Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

37 comments:

Anonymous said...

Ummm... wasn't this reported on a couple of weeks ago? Is it a slow news day or is Cockayne just headline grabbing again? Or both?

Steve Collins said...

The new committee's creation was reported last week, but I could not get hold of Cockayne for that piece. I asked him about this week because he is the person who is most responsible for pushing for it.

I want cuts said...

I'll bet you that this DOES NOT lower the mill rate, only minimize the increase.
Ironically, it will reduce the pressure to eliminate unnecessary spending.

Bristol's own Ponzi scheme.

Concerned Conservative said...

It's great to see Mayor Ward put common sense over politics.

Good job Mayor, Councilman Councilman Cockayne and Mr. Barnes.

In The Know said...

Thank you Ken Johnson

Concerned Conservative said...

"In the know":

I find it very hard to believe that with a father who is chairman of the board of Barnes Corp., a grandfather who was the same and a "step-grandmother" who is a former US Secretary of Commerce, TJ Barnes is listening much to Ken Johnson's advice.

Anonymous said...

Stanger things have happened!
He was an early supporter of Kenny.

Anonymous said...

As a tax payer I find it very hard to believe that using city employees pension money will not come back to haunt us. As a person living on a fixed pension I worry that we may be taking from Peter now but have to pay Paul later, when we have to repay the pension if it starts to fall short. Please don't say it can't happen, look at Waterbury and other communities, they never thought it would happen. I jusy hope I can afford to live in Bristol where I've lived my whole life if that happens.

Steve Collins said...

5:22 -- I'm sure many people feel like you do. What I should perhaps have made clearer is that you're on the hook for those post-retirement health care costs in exactly the same way you're on the hook for employee pensions. You pay for both, no matter what.
In Bristol, it's a blessing that the pension funds are fully paid up and then some, a rarity for any government anywhere. The state, for instance, is billions of dollars underfunded.
Using that excess by putting toward the health care costs would reduce what taxpayers would otherwise have to put in to pay for that, too. Right now, there's almost no money set aside. It would take $72 million right now to cover the anticipated future tab. So we're talking serious cash.
In any case, the federal government won't let the city take much from the pension funds that could ever be needed. It has to leave, I think, 115 percent of the anticipate need, so that there's a hefty margin of error.
One advantage of talking about this now is that the markets are way down. Anything that's excess now really is excess. And when the market rebound, which they will unless we're heading for a grand collapse that makes all of this meaningless, the city should have plenty of surplus pension money again.
Anyway, the experts are looking at it. I'm not an expert.
But your worry is probably unnecessary. The simplest way to look at it is that you pay one way or the other. But perhaps if they can tap the excess, you may not have to chip in any more money.

NOT said...

cockayne is anti anything associated withn a benefit to a city employee who has contributed to their benrfits - city worker or not - would you want Ken Cockayne overseeing your future?

TRUTH said...

PASSION=IGNORANE=ARROGANE=COCKAYNE.

Odin said...

"Please don't say it can't happen, look at Waterbury and other communities, they never thought it would happen."

It can't happen. The federal law that controls employer use of pension funds prohibits Bristol from drawing down the pension fund to below 120% of full funding; and, if it drops below that due to the market, to return the money that was taken from it.

not said...

Wonder if cockayne was man enough to apologize to ward personally or if he took the "coward's" way out and only spit it out to the media.
interesting

Anonymous said...

Courage=Independence=Passionate=Maverick=Cockayne.

Anonymous said...

I certainly hope Cockayne didn't apologize. Ward was cowardly with forming this board, like he is with the majority of tough decisions. He does not want to lead, he wants to survive in office. He has not made one tough decision while in office that might have even the remotest possibility of pissing off the unions. (Yes I made a reference to the unions. While I don't believe they are a curse on this town, like man people do, I wholeheartedly believe that Ward does whatever will keep him in their good graces.) This GASB 45 thing needs to happen. Ward knows it and sees that many smart people in Bristol support it happening and it likely will. He took the easy way out with this panel by not putting himself on it and by loading it with Union people. It was illegal. Beneficiaries can't be on a panel that is making recommendations on what to do with penions money. That is the trustee's job. When he was called on it by Cockayne, he simply kicked him off the panel. He is a coward and a poor exucse for a mayor. Or if he is not a coward, he is a dunce for forming the committee the way he did, either way he is still a poor excuse for a mayor.

Bring back Mayor Frank or pull Zoppo out of hiding. We need someone intelligent and indipendent minded, not a complete sellout!

Concerned Conservative said...

Give credit to Mayor Art Ward for listening to fiscal conservatives such as Cockayne, etc. and correcting what seemed to be a bad plan.

I don't see anything wrong with what happened or is happening now. I am quite happy, surprised and I feel very good about this. I don't see how anyone except maybe the die-hard union agenda people can feel negative about this action.

Anonymous said...

Ward should apologize to Cockayne! He is the one who mentioned his son in the paper. What a complete idiot! Ward couldn't get along with anyone when he was on the council and he can't get along with anyone now. That's b/c he only people who respect him are the unions, who he completely sells out to everyday. Bring back Stortz!

ashamed said...

the tone of these lateast postings leads me to believe that either "wannabee moccabee" is still venting his venom on here or his influence on the rtc is still alive and well - either path is doom and gloom for the local republican party.

Anonymous said...

Cockayne owes Ward a personal apology. The way he snuck off the media instead of growing a spinal cord and heading to the Mayor's office to discuss the issue was sneaky and underhanded. The fact that he called Ward (a Vietnam vet) a coward was a low blow. Ward would be damned if he was on the council and is now being damned because he isn't. Either way, it's blantantly obvious that Mr. Cockayne still has a LOT to learn about negotiation, communication, maturity and class. He was wrong and he needs to man up and apologize to Mr. Ward.

Stop your whining said...

"He has not made one tough decision while in office that might have even the remotest possibility of pissing off the unions."

Why should he? It seems that the City is still looking pretty good, even with the recession. He's kept things status quo which is quite a feat with the rocky economy. All thing's considered, he's doing a good job keeping our heads above water. I'm not sure why you think pissing off the unions would make Bristol better. If you think the Mayor's doing a poor job just b/c he's not out pissing people off....we'll then, let's just say we'd all be better off if YOU don't run for office.

I Question! said...

9:34

Hoe do you know that the city is in good shape?
The mayor has not provided us with any information as to the current status of the budget, has he?

Of course, he plans to take from the Fund Balancet for the next budget.
When does that stop?

And that just increase taxes in the future.

Even if they use the pension fund to help with the taxes, that is a one time move, and it certainly was not someting that Ward thought of or pushed for.

Poboy said...

"He took the easy way out with this panel by not putting himself on it and by loading it with Union people. It was illegal."

This statement is totally false and shows a complete lack of understanding on this issue. There is nothing illegal about having union members on an advisory panel. This is borne out by the fact that the new panel has, as a percentage , more union members than the previous one, (4 out of seven members are from the unions).
They have no conflict because their inerests are clear. the only people who had a conflict were comptroller Klocko and treaurer Veits. That is because they both wear two hats. On one hand, they represent the taxpayers' interests in their official city capacity. On the other hand, by charter, they are members of the pension boards and have a fiduciary responsibility to protect pension funds SOLELY FOR THE BENEFIT OF THE PENSIONERS. Actually, Klocko is on record stating he wants to use pension funds specifically to lower taxes. This could be reasonably interpreted as a breach of fiduciary responsibility. Interestingly, he is no longer on the panel. So far the treasurer is still a member.

End the carnage said...

"Ward should apologize to Cockayne! He is the one who mentioned his son in the paper. What a complete idiot!"

Gee 9:32, how do you think Ward's children and grandchildren felt seeing their father and grandfather declared a "coward" on the front page of the Bristol Press? If Ward is a "complete idiot" for just "mentioning" Cockayne's son, what would you call Cockayne for slandering Ward??? What a complete idiot!

REALITY said...

show me where ward ever mentioned cockayne's son - put up or shut up - stop the innuendos and lies - ward said that he wasn't serving on the first committee because it would appear to be a conflict of interest if he served or if he decided not to serve, based on you idiots. He opted not to serve so as to not jepordize the functioning and dedications of those charged with this responsibility - get off your stupidity and start working in the best interests of the city rather than your own selfish agendas - wake up and grow up!

Anonymous said...

Cockayne never mentioned his family and how he was setting a bad example for his son. If he wanted to he could have brought up Ward's DUI and how that was a bad example for his children and grandchildren, or he could have brought up his dirty politics with Zoppo.

Why wouldn't Cockayne go to the papers? Ward has shown no class for years and now he takes this high road, please. That's a joke. At least Cockayne attaches his name to his politics. Ward gets his buddies to file complaints and sits at a distance watching the fallout. I wonder what other fires he set to his opponents' careers, and I am not talking about his republican opponents either. He is dirty and backstabbing and his actions have been cowardly for a lot longer then since Cockayne called him out for it.

3 & out said...

7:54 - so you lost an election or two, get on with life.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone heard is Cockayne is running for Mayor?

Anonymous said...

Nicastro for Mayor in 09!

Anonymous said...

10:28

Hope so, that way we can get rid of him.

Anonymous said...

Is Nicastro really thinking of running?!?

He would get my vote.

Anonymous said...

Nicastro can save our city and fix the mess Ward has made!

Nicastro for Mayor!!

Anonymous said...

Be careful what you pray for. Sometimes your prayers get answered.

Example: Ward

Anonymous said...

I heard Nicastro is going to run and has some big supporters who are unhappy with Ward.

Could Ward's network be cracking?

Anonymous said...

8:10

Along with him!

Anonymous said...

Nocastro in 09! I would love it if there was a primary. It would be more explosive than when Nicastro and Diamantis' supporters went at it. This would be entertainment at it's finest. All we need is Johnson and Stortz to square off on the other side. What an eletion year this could turn out to be.

Anonymous said...

And Zoppo as the third party choice!

I Like Him said...

Go get em Stortzie!