Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Pension investments: 'We're getting killed'

I sat through a three hour long county investment committee meeting yesterday. Because I love you all. No, not really.

Because no one else will. And, besides, I'm doing the acid god's work here, baby. Yeah.

Anyhoo, the county - like every other place - is getting killed. (I think those were pretty much the words commissioner and committee Chairman Ed Shouse used.)

Without boring you to death as to why the stock market sucks (thanks, in part, goes to Greece - the country not the crappy musical - as well as low interest rates), just understand that it does. Or did, at least, during the third quarter (July through September) of this year. Actually, it's sucked all year long. Who are we kidding?

Sooooo, that means the county and school board are on the hook for shelling out more coin.

Shouse figures the county (that means, you, the taxpayer) could end up putting as much as $6 million to $8 million into the Uniformed Officers Pension Plan next year. And that's on top of the $4.1 million it already has to cover because there's a little thing called bond repayment debt. (Yeah, the previous administration probably should have raised taxes to cover this one.)

This year, the county shelled out $4.1 million for the plan (and another $4.1 million for the bonds).

Now, the county has a couple of other defined benefit plans that don't get discussed all that much. Well, they do, if you bother to show up for pension board meetings, but other than that . . . . whatever, I digress.

The county has two pension plans that closed down more than 20 years ago - one for school teachers that ended in 1986 and another for general employees that shuttered in 1991. For a long time, neither needed any extra scratch. During the past few years, however, they've lost so much that the county has needed to ante up.

This year, the county put $1.5 million into the county plan, and the school board contributed $1 million (plus another $1.4 million in bonds) for the "old school" plan.

Bob Cross, southeast president of USI Consulting, the pension board's actuary, said those numbers are expected to jump next year.

He'll know exactly how much in March.

Until then, the county is left praying that the stock market will turn around.

October numbers look good so far. But how long will that really last?

I'll probably have a story later this week.

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