Last week the Knox County Charter Review Committee, an unwieldy bunch that, maybe, one day will get down to the tough decisions, decided to give the county's pension board first crack at determining whether its budget should be approved by the County Commission (yeah, I'm laughing, too) and whether it should increase its size by adding four outsiders appointed by the commission and the county mayor.
You can find the story right smack here (although the headline, which I don't write, is completely misleading).
Anyhoo, the pension board today, in an 8-1 vote, said screw that. Members said they don't need to add four more people to the board. Only Casual Chris Caldwell, the mayor's appointee to the pension board and the county's new finance director, dissented (no-doubt at Tim Burchett's request/demand).
County Commission Chairman Mike Hammond, also a pension board member, said:
“The worst thing we can do is put this pension program and these millions of dollars in the hands of politicians. And any time you're talking about appointees, you're talking about political appointees.”
Heh. Good point, Mike. (Also, the idea was to put financial experts on the board, and some members noted that the board has money managers, actuaries and other financial wizards under contract.)
The board also in an 8-1 vote (again, Casual Chris dissenting) said they didn't think it was such a hot idea to let the commission approve its budget. They argued that the budget, which is funded by the county and then reimbursed by the board is “revenue neutral,” meaning it costs the county nothing, so there's really no reason the commission needs to approve it. They also used the “we're independent from regular government” card.
That might be true. But that budget isn't exactly revenue neutral. You see, the money that the board uses to reimburse the county comes out of employee investment funds. And guess who contributes to those funds? Yeah, the county.