Friday, December 12, 2008

More on Defined Benefits for Fayette County, GA

If you're not from Fayette County, GA you probably won't want to read this (unless defined benefits retirement plans are a hot button for you).

Last night the committee the County Commission selected to study implementing a Defined Benefits Retirement Plan for county employees asked for more time (Vote on Defined Benefit Plan Vendor Choice Postponed at County Commission Meeting). Since asking for bids in September the group has been reviewing the many, many plans submitted by various companies hoping to get the County's business.

It's big business. It's a carrot with a short stick and a lot of companies are vying to be the ones to chomp down on that juicy veggie. (Hey, I'm the queen of bad metaphors... I'm sure before I finish I'll have you rolling your eyes to the heavens.)

While writing the "official" article for the Fayette Front Page, I went back and reviewed all the times the DB issue has come before the County Commission. They've been looking at it for over a year now. I've been at most of the meetings where it was discussed, or have a tape recording of the meeting. It's boring stuff to listen to and, if you're not in on the committee meetings, it makes not a whole lot of sense without documentation or background details.

However, I've muddled through.

One thing I had thought, but hadn't really researched, was that all the meetings regarding the DB plan were held during business hours. I was right. While there have been a number of presentations to and discussions by the County Commissioners, the public would have had a hard time being at any of the meetings if they weren't willing to take time off from work.

Not only would it be difficult for any member of the public to keep up with all the happenings in regards to the County's DB plan, it's not easy to find out when they're going to discuss it. It's on the agenda, but how many of you go check to see what's on the upcoming agenda? Especially the daytime Workshop agenda?

A lot of people don't even know that it's already a done deal. The Commission voted 4-1 to implement the plan back in December 2007. Commissioner Peter Pfeifer was the ONLY Commissioner to vote no.

During the election Commissioner Herb Frady started saying he had always been opposed to implementing the plan but he voted FOR it... and he said he was for anything that was good for the employees (or something to that affect, I'd have to go back and listen to the tape of the meeting again to give you the EXACT quote, but that's almost exact if not exact). If you go read my story on the Fayette Front Page and wander though the links at the end you'll see a video of Peter Pfeifer and Herb Frady discussing it during the election, the quote is on there.

All that is happening now is that the Committee appointed by the Commission to look into the Plans is trying to decide which company gets the business. Now there is a slim, slim possibility that the Committee will come back and say no, don't do it, but it is so slim you couldn't catch a minnow on the line.

However, while I say it is a slim, slim possibility, it's still possible. There's a group of citizens who've formed a PAC, Fayette Citizens for Open Government (FayCOG), who are fighting implementing the Plan. They don't feel that there have been enough open meetings and public input. They're asking for hearings and citizen involvement. You can get involved with FayCOG, or you can send your own emails and letters. You can come to the next meeting and voice your concerns.

Why, you might ask, should this involve the citizens of this county? Well, I might answer, it's going to cost the taxpayers a bundle in a few years. Your taxes are going to rise and / or some things aren't going to happen that should just to pay for benefits for employees.

The employees have a great retirement plan already. It's one that isn't going to drain the bank and it's not risky.

We're watching the auto bailout fiasco going on right now. A huge part of their financial woes are related to the dream benefits the employees have at the once-big 3. Everyone is running away from DB retirement plans because they are financially back-breaking. Yet here in our county we're embracing the failed plan and going in the opposite direction.

The bill is going to come due at some point. For the first few years things will run smoothly, then it's going to become a growing bubble that will burst when least expected.

I've been writing about this for over a year. It's bad news for the future of our county and it seems that not many are paying attention. At the very least, the County Commission should hold off with this taxpayer hold-up until after the financial crisis passes.


Vote on Defined Benefit Plan Vendor Choice Postponed at County Commission Meeting
12/12/08 It appeared that County Commissioners were surprised when the newly appointed Fire and Emergency Director, Allen McCullough made his presentation regarding Defined Benefits. McCullough heads up the committee which is studying which company to select to provide and manage the Defined Benefit plan the County voted to implement last year (Dec. 5th, 2007; approved 4 – 1 with Commissioner Peter Pfeifer voting in opposition)... More

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