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Published: Sunday, 1/10/2010

Not all facts on pensions made clear

It is clear from The Blade's recent series on Ohio's public pension plans that the writers didn't comprehend the 30-year funding model, or how Ohio law applies this tool to the pension systems. For example, a Jan. 3 article stated: "The State Teachers Retirement System and the Ohio Police & Fire Pension Fund are in violation of state law requiring them to have enough money to cover their pension obligations for 30 years." This is simply not true.

The law requires the systems to have a plan in place, submitted to the Ohio Retirement Study Council, that would bring the plans to a full-funding ratio in 30 years. It's up to the legislature to implement that plan. There is no requirement for the pension systems to have 30 years of pension obligations on hand.

The Ohio Police & Fire Pension Fund was created in 1967 with $7 of liability for every $1 of asset. A statewide plan was created because cities defaulted on payments to local pension plans. These employers owed the pension fund hundreds of millions of dollars. Many have still not paid off that debt.

In 1986, employer contribution rates were frozen. This allowed local jurisdictions to more accurately budget retirement costs. The employee rates were increased. Contribution rates have not increased since 1986.

What costs the same today as it did in 1986 aside from Ohio's police and fire pension?

As firefighters and emergency medical service professionals, we are there for the people of Ohio. We are there to literally save lives, and we retire with an average pension of less than $34,000. In retirement, we deserve the dignity and security we earned by our years of dedicated service.

Mark A. Sanders

President

Ohio Association

of Professional Fire Fighters

Cincinnati

I was especially drawn to the statements of Lucas County Probate Court Judge Jack Puffenberger on "double-dipping." He justified his actions by saying that as a judge he is restricted in the ways he can make supplemental income and is entitled to the compensation he has earned by working for his employer.

He's absolutely correct, and if working is that important to him, he should have stayed on the job.

I am his employer. I pay the taxes that provide his salary and pension. I did not force him to retire. That was his choice. Retiring to collect his pension then returning to his job places an undue burden on taxpayers like me. He is setting a terrible example for other public servants.

Toledo is facing a $40 million budget deficit. Much of it is because of double-dippers. My essential services are being cut so that double-dippers can enjoy a lavish lifestyle. People are being killed, robbed, raped, and otherwise victimized because of the shortage of police officers, while money for public safety is being diverted to pay for pensions of the unretired.

The solution is simple. Do nothing. When the deficit reaches $50 million, the state will step in and void all contracts, pensions, and other city liabilities so that we can end these inequities and readjust our priorities.

William Poznanski

Melvin Drive

My husband retired a few years ago after working under Social Security for 16 years and 28 years for the Toledo Board of Education. When he started getting his pension his Social Security was cut by two-thirds. Not everyone who works for public schools comes back and works and also collects a pension, but we are all punished for it.

If I retire at 65 after working for 30 years I will only make $900 per month. Under Social Security I was supposed to get $500, but I will only get two-thirds of that after working under Social Security for 20 years.

If The Blade wants to punish those who go back to work and also receive a large pension, do it just to those who do that. Not everyone can afford to have his or her pension reduced.

Joyce Carter

Wright Avenue

The Jan. 3 story "Government cutbacks spare public pensions" unfavorably compared the defined pensions of public employees with 401(k)s and other nondefined pension substitutes that have taken their place in the private sector. The story implied that if private sector employees had to take these cutbacks, public ones should too.

Private sector employees have a defined retirement program to fall back on that their public sector brothers and sisters in Ohio and seven other states don't - Social Security.

I have worked for government agencies all my life. Were I to retire without a defined pension, I would not have Social Security to fall back on. It is ironic that The Blade, a stalwart defender of libraries and their funding in Ohio, has published a deeply slanted article that not-so-subtly advocates a retirement system for public employees that would discourage them from pursuing public service.

The Blade seems to have joined others in advocating a race to the bottom for American workers. Your coverage acknowledges that it's hard to draw across-the-board comparisons but tends to lump all public employees in with double-dipping politicians. In the future, The Blade should deal with these issues in a more sensitive and less inflammatory manner.

Linda Koss

Secretary/Treasurer

Association of Public

Library Employees

UAW Local 5242

East Northgate Parkway

Thanks for exposing the flagrant policies of our local and state governments' pension system, now in peril. If the private sector had retirement packages this sweet, we would be bankrupt.

Eliminate the clause, 30 years of service and you're out. Nobody deserves to retire at age 48 with a full pension.

Eliminate double dipping. If you retire, you may be eligible for a pension. If you return to work, you may be eligible for a salary. But not both.

No pension plans should be guaranteed. If you invest in the stock market and the market takes a dive, or someone sneaks off with all your money, you're screwed.

Deal with it, and join the club.

Frank Alberts III

Jackman Road

Hats off to Ken Dickson for his fascinating book about Benjamin Franklin Stickney. His years of research have moved the name of Stickney from a street sign to a pedestal for Maumee Valley heroes.

Our hats are also off to The Blade. Its 26 articles excerpted from the book key events in Stickney's life, from Indian agent at Fort Wayne to assuring that Toledo would be in Ohio, nicely telling the story of his importance to our area.

Richard D. Kudner

President

Maumee Valley Heritage Corridor

West Central Avenue

The minute percentage of retired teachers who get 88 percent of their pay in pensions have careers spanning more than 40 years. What is called “double dipping” is simply wages earned for services rendered, a basic economic tenet.

We all choose our life's work. No one forces us into public service, building autos, running trains, or working for The Blade.

Teaching today's youth, going into burning buildings, or facing murderous criminals is hard work too.

Any reward we get from such careers is well-earned.

STEVEN G. SIROTNYAK

Sylvania



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