Archive for June, 2014

Trust The Free Market

Monday, June 30th, 2014

June 30, 2014

Trust The Free Market

I followed Mayor Wharton’s proposals in his state of the City speech and in the PFM group’s 5 Year Strategic Fiscal And Management Plan for the City of Memphis. I congratulate the Mayor for hiring this group and for the well written and realistic facts in the plan. Now that part of the plan has been voted on and passed (OPEB reform of health care) I would like to propose an alternative plan for pension reform, another major part of getting the City’s fiscal house in order.

PFM recommends various pension plans for non vested (less than 10 years of service) and future new employees. The recommendations include a defined contribution plan or a combination of a defined contribution plan and a limited defined benefit plan similar to what the state of Tennessee has done for teachers and state employees.

Several years ago I participated in a pension reform study for Shelby County which ended up in Plan D for the county for new employees. The City adopted a similar plan for new employees only basically doing away with the disastrous 25 year retirement formula (regardless of age). At that time I recommended a Hybrid plan which would put public employees on an equal footing with private sector employees promising a minimum of social security return but possibly a much better return from the free market.

Social security promises a lousy return by sending your money to the Washington DC lockbox which is empty due to the politicians spending all the social security money. What this proposal would do is have the same 6.2% contribution from the City and the 6.2% from the employee and let it grow at the market rate until retirement. The market has returned over 9% at the City and the MLGW since inception even including 2008. The social security return is -.95%.

Of course the IRS would probably have to bless such a plan but that should be no problem since the City has good relations with the current administration. We should consider all options and the employees should get on board with the free market and take the same risks that all private sector taxpayers take, market return. You can hardly do worse than putting your faith in social security.

IMPORTANT ELECTION INFORMATION

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014

June 24, 2014

 

IMPORTANT ELECTION INFORMATION

There is a very important and complicated election coming up on August 7, 2014. (WOW, WHAT A BALLOT) (Countywide early voting starts Monday, July 21st). You will be electing the primary candidates for Tennessee Governor, one Tennessee US Senator, Two US Representatives (8th and 9th districts), Three State Senators, Thirteen State Representatives and Ten State Executive Committee members. These are primary elections and the final vote will be in November of this year.

As if that was not enough, we will also be electing the following.

9 circuit court judges, 3 chancery court judges, 2 probate court judges and 10 criminal court judges. NOTE (Chancellor Kenny Armstrong, Chancery Court Part 3, has just been appointed by Governor Haslam to the Appeals Court. Since it’s way after time for filing a qualifying petition, he either won’t be on the final ballot in August, or, if it’s too late to take him off, any votes for him or that office will be ineffective. We assume Haslam set it up this way so he gets to appoint his own choice until the next election IN 2016.)

 

 

Also (very important) we will be electing the District Attorney General, the County Mayor and 13 members of the County Commission.

Will it never end?

Then we will select the Assessor of Property and the County Trustee, the Probate Court Clerk, the County Clerk and the Register of Deeds.

I bet you thought I was finished but OH NO. You will select 15 general session court  judges (1 is an environmental court judge) and the juvenile court judge. Also THE SHERIFF, THE CIRCUIT COURT CLERK, THE CRIMINAL COURT CLERK AND THE JUVENILE COURT CLERK.

(more…)

Congratulations Mr. Mayor and City Council Majority

Thursday, June 19th, 2014

June 19, 2014

Congratulations Mr. Mayor and City Council Majority

My wife and I have been out of town visiting two of our daughters, our son in law and our 2 year old grandson in California. You can imagine my delight in reading Wednesday morning that the City Council has taken the recommendation of Mayor Wharton to start the process of reining in our City finances and getting control of our unfunded liabilities.

This is just the first step and it will be painful and seemingly unfair to the retirees but this is what the County did years ago and the financial statements show the difference. However this is just the first step. More needs to be done next year. Pension reform in July this year and then line of duty disability, sick day reform and other areas of benefits that are more than private sector comparisons.

On a lighter note but with some significant contrasts I list below some items from the Carmel California Pine Cone newspaper which I picked up on my trip. (Carmel is where Clint Eastwood used to be mayor).

Police & Sheriff’s Log Crime Report

1)    Subject reported the loss of a wallet while wine tasting in Carmel. Exact location of loss unknown.

2)    Man was walking northbound on Mission Street when he saw a subject who was staggering and almost falling to the ground. He made contact with  the subject and called the police. Upon arrival the police contacted the subject who had been drinking. He was reunited with his spouse, who was sober, coherent and staying at a hotel approximately one block away.

3)    Person came into the station to report the loss of a wallet and personal contents. Person later located the wallet at a restaurant patronized last night.

Then an article with the headline “Council adopts $24M budget at first pass”.

In the article

In the article there is the following information. The biggest chunk of spending goes to public safety (fire, police and ambulance) accounts for 32% of expenditures. In Memphis this figure is 70%.

Memphis is obviously not Carmel California but what a difference in the vital area of public safety.

 

 

Holy Pot Hole Batman

Thursday, June 5th, 2014

June 5, 2014

More Talk, Delays And No Answers

The clock is ticking and all we get is more delays and can kicking down the road from the city Council. Positions seem to have hardened. Janice Fullilove and Joe Brown are in the “over my dead body” camp. Bill Boyd has ruled out any retiree OPEB reductions for health care. Jim Strickland and Shea Flinn want to pay up in 2 years instead of 5 but don’t come up with where the money is coming from.

The most clear eyed vision seems to come from the PFM January 2014 City of Memphis Fiscal and Management Plan. For instance on page 46 while employees were supposed to pay 30% of the cost of health insurance, the City only collected 24.2%, leaving the taxpayers to pick up nearly $4 million in cost left on the table. This under billing has been going on for a number of years.  Then on page 43, we see that we pay employees (Fire and Police Services) college incentive pay amounting to $6 million per year.

NEWS FLASH FROM THE BAT CAVE. IT IS REPORTED IN THE MORNING PAPER THAT THE CITY HAS A NEW POT HOLE BAT TRUCK REPORTED TO FILL HOLES FASTER AND CHEAPER. THE MAYOR ASKS ALL CITIZENS TO REPORT ALL HOLES DEEPER THAN KNEE HIGH.

Then on page 130 we see that one of the biggest problems we have in Memphis (potholes) is reported. According to the Division, the number of lane miles pavedl has dropped from 236 in 2007 to 105 in 2011, a decline of 56%. “WATCH OUT, HOLY POT HOLE BATMAN”.

As to the proposed health care cost reductions, this is where the real money is. According to the Affordable Care Act, costs will be reduced by $2500 dollars per family, you can keep your doctor and you can keep your plan. PERIOD. Let us take them up on this promise.

Paying For Pension Reform In 2 Years

Monday, June 2nd, 2014

June 2 2014

 

Paying For Pension Reform In 2 Years

 

A good friend sent me a copy of Councilman Jim Strickland’s thoughts in paying this unfunded liability off in 2 years rather than 5. Jim is a good guy and a responsible city council member. He is correct in that paying it off in two years rather than five will save in the long run. Last year we added $68 million to the unfunded liability due to the small payment to the pension fund rather than the recommended ARC payment.

 

What is missing from him is the specific details of how we are going to pay for this pension load without raising property taxes. He needs to detail the immediate dollar savings for 2015 such as health care reform for active employees and retirees, sick pay, vacation reform, college education benefit reduction or elimination, line of duty reform and salary reductions to bring salaries in line with private sector. Also while going to the proposed defined contribution will not give immediate relief, it will change the future projections of the pension auditors reducing the unfunded liability projections.

 

Also concerning the health care proposed changes, I believe that those retirees under age 65 who are not eligible for medicare (or their spouse is not on medicare) can pay for back medicare eligibility to make them eligible.

 

I would agree with paying in two years rather than 5 but only if it is accompanied with passed and agreed on reforms like the above detailing where the money is coming from. We do not need more property tax increases. Look at the county and their proposed (more…)