Greg Burris, before he has even officially started his job as the new city manager of Springfield has said what we all knew he would say.
According to Wes Johnson of the News-Leader:
"...Greg Burris already plans to seek a sales tax vote early next year to deal with a huge shortfall in the pension system for city police and firefighters...."
If voters say no to the sales tax:
“Then we know that what we’ve got ahead of us are massive budget cuts, which equate into massive service cuts,” Burris said....
The article continues:
"At a recent pension presentation, Assistant Fire Chief David Hall said the sales tax should automatically end when the retirement plan reached a 90 percent funding level. At that point, interest from invested pension funds should be enough to sustain it without additional sales tax revenue, Hall said...."
And Burris goes on:
“Maybe part of a package solution is one where everybody is contributing — police and fire contribute a little more, the city is contributing more, taxpayers are contributing a little more — and we can identify some time range that this solution will sunset after X number of years.”
I think Burlison has the right idea (read the article) that he wants to see the whole plan and that the police and fire fighters have already contributed enough and shouldn't be asked to sacrifice any more than they have already sacrificed. They continue to pay into the pension fund, they never stopped paying into the pension fund.
I have no problem with supporting a sales tax, and yeah, that's going to get me in trouble with some folks, even maybe here at home, if you get my drift ;) The thing is, I think the city is going to have to exhibit a little different attitude if they want the support of people. The city wants the taxpayer to sacrifice because the city didn't contribute as they should have and because one of their past city managers failed, miserably failed, to address the issue after promising the pension board he would.
Assistant Fire Chief and Pension Board Trustee David Hall didn't stop with a sales tax, and he didn't want to see the people of Springfield have to suffer more in cuts to core city services, as they were forced to do in fiscal year 2008-09.
At Hall's presentation to the City Council he offered several recommendations, a sales tax was just one of the recommendations, albeit the key recommendation. I have to wonder why I see no one at the News-Leader outlining the complete recommendations of the board, different reporters think different things are important, I guess.
One of the other recommendations was that "reductions in the general fund should be revised to a level that does not impact core services," the new city manager must have missed that recommendation, along with the News-Leader.
Everyone at the presentation heard all of the board's recommendations, every city official and all the media received copies of the entire power point presentation to take home and consider further.
CityConnect posted The video of the Police/Fire Pension Presentation at their Web site, but I don't see anyone talking about any of those recommendations except the sales tax. I see the new city manager possibly coming up with some new ideas, like asking the police and firefighters to contribute more than they have been, but I didn't see any mention of any of the other recommendations made by the board.
Now, I understand they are only recommendations from the pension board, not mandates, but shouldn't they be being considered as a part of the equation?
The pension board has many members and at least one of them, that I know of, has spent countless hours studying how the plan got where it is today to avoid the plan getting there again in the future. I hope sour grapes, due primarily to a past lack of communication, doesn't keep our current City Council and new city manager from seriously considering recommendations which came, no doubt, after hours and hours of research and deliberation by the pension board. That wouldn't seem wise to me. When such a valuable resource is available, it should be used.
Further, I have to wonder about the wisdom of the new city manager announcing he's going to rush right into asking for a quick vote of the taxpayers for a sales tax increase to fund the pension plan before he's even taken his position.
I've been one of those people who have been saying let's give him a chance. I've been thinking we ought to at least let him mess up before we condemn him. I've been waiting, giving him the benefit of the doubt and hoping for the best but the timing of this big announcement seems a little whacked to me, a little rash.
I think the taxpayers who are being asked to rectify the mistakes the city has made in the past would like to know about the entire proposal, I think the taxpayer would like to see how the city plans to sacrifice something beyond core city services, as if the public is to pay for their mistakes, before they are ready to consider sacrificing to get the city out of the pension plan mess they allowed a past city manager to get us into due to lack of communication and oversight.
Anyway, in the meantime, if you want to read all the recommendations made by the pension board, some very good and well thought out recommendations, which were no doubt deliberated over for a considerable amount of time, check out the new issue of the "Community Free Press."
Yers truly has a pension article too, "Pensions Remain Top Council Priority."
Here's a tease:
"“In the pension board we were given a commitment from the city manager’s office that they would resolve the problem with the funding. We were told to report to the city manager’s office and that’s why all of our communications, at that time, were going to him. Obviously, now, the board sees it has to report to Council because we can see what happens whenever it gets locked up, or it did get locked up in the city manager’s office.” - Pension Board Trustee David Hall
Update: Jason, at Life Of Jason, did his own interview with Assistant Fire Chief and Pension Board Trustee David Hall that offers further insight into the Pension Plan issue. Read it here.