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As a taxpayer in the city of Oakwood, I was amazed to read the article "Retirement plan gets an upgrade." I could address a thousand points regarding this outrage but I will stick with three.
1. Public pension plans across the country are bankrupting local and state governments. I'm sure The Times has published some of the many articles and reports that have been released stating that government employee retirement and health plans are crippling jurisdictions at all levels. These plans have been sweetened over and over again by government officials with little input and understanding by the taxpayers.
Instead of giving employees raises, which would require budget hits now, government leaders are constantly negotiating with employee groups and unions to give them better retirement benefits. Most of the leaders could care less about the long-term stability of the system and, if they do, they are living under the illusion that government will continue to grow at a quick enough pace to absorb these costs.
One day in the future, Oakwood will have more retirees than workers. When that day comes, retirement benefits will start eating a larger piece of the city budget.
2. How can the city of Oakwood be making its pension plan more lucrative when almost every jurisdiction in the state is grappling with budget short falls? This problem is not a secret. It is killing California, Illinois, and Michigan. Cities are hurting even worse due to their inability to find money from new sources. Go down to our Capital and talk to any person in the General Assembly and they will tell you how bad it is.
Former mayors of Atlanta paid off government employee unions with retirement promises and Atlanta has a giant problem. The city owes hundreds of millions in retirement benefits it does not have. It can't raise taxes anymore so it cuts teachers, closes parks and lays off employees to pay huge pensions.
3. With unemployment at record levels, why must we make good jobs even more attractive? Does Oakwood really need to be in a bidding war for employees right now? As unemployment hovers around 10 percent, government jobs are more desirable than ever, but in the middle of the worst recession in decades, Oakwood decides to increase retirement benefits.
What business in the world asks employees (as the Oakwood city commission did) "What can we do to make your retirement plan better?" How about reducing the retirement age? An employee can now retire at 47 instead of 65. We just added 18 years of pension payments to that employee. How many employees are we talking about? How much debt did we just add to the Oakwood taxpayers with that action? The kicker is that there was no public input.
This exact scenario has played out for decades in government offices all over America. Citizens and taxpayers are just now starting to wake up to this.
Please reinforce my belief that the press exists to shine light on things just like this. Ask the tough questions. Please do not let this go unchallenged.