Negotiations on the fiscal 2012 general fund budget for the city of Atlanta and for reforming the city’s three pension funds may proceed at the same time, but the issues will be treated separately, according to Dist. 8 City Councilwoman Yolanda Adrean.
“I talked to the mayor and he has agreed to uncouple the conversations,” said Adrean, chair of the city Finance Committee, which is reviewing both issues. “I don’t want somebody’s eyes to drift over here and say, ‘There’s $20 million, so we will make that savings on the pension plan.’ We have to have separate conversations.”
She said the administration is supposed to present its pension plan proposal by the end of February or early March.
The goal is to have compensation, post-retirement and benefits legislation all done by June 30, which coincidentally is the date the new city budget must be approved.
Adrean insists it is just a coincidence.
“What we really want to do is uncouple the conversation and say this is our tax base, these are our tax revenues, and this is how we are going to serve citizens. This is our pension problem. It needs to be solved,” she told those attending the Feb. 10 meeting of the Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods.
“If you put it together, people will look at it in a way that there is only this much money to spend, which way do we want to spend it?” Adrean said. “When the savings are computed, then we can have a conversation about priorities and it is probably going to be something like infrastructure. We are $900 million behind on infrastructure.”
Adrean told the group the city’s pension plan “is simply unsustainable.”
“We spend $1 out of every $5 [on pensions] and even with that, the plans aren’t fully funded,” she said. “So, it has to change. All three plans: the general, police and fire.”
The Buckhead council representative told the group that the city needed a plan that was adequately funded, efficient and could manage risks.
“Right now, you guys manage the risks,” she said. “because the benefits plan has guaranteed retirement benefits, which are guaranteed to be paid by the city, which in turn is guaranteed by you. I think we need to shift some of that risk from the taxpayers to the employees.”