Where do I begin?
Let me start by saying that one cannot have "wrong facts". You either have the facts or you don't.
Secondly, I want to make it clear that the group, Taxpayers Concerned in Pine-Richland (CPR), has not blamed the teachers of Pine-Richland or anywhere else for the pension problem, but we are striving to let people know that there IS a problem.
It really doesn't matter a whole lot whose fault this pensions issue is. Our anger and frustration is not really with the teachers, but with their union leaders and with the legislators who have put all of us into this mess.
I think that Mr. Santicola is basically correct about the rates teachers and employees are paying into their retirement. However, he is being rather misleading when he says that districts elected to reduce the rate that they contribute.
The law permitted a reduction in the amount that school districts could contribute, but for MANY years, this rate has been established by the Board of PSERS based on actuarial reports.
Back in the 1990s, the rate went to below 1% and has risen slightly ever since. The REASON for the reduction was a strong investment market that was supplementing the system. When that market crashed, (and many of us NON-government union members lost a lot of their retirement, while taxpayers were still required to pay for public sector union pensions) the problems of not funding the pension plan at an appropriate level began to escalate.
As a wise man explained to me recently, the real elephant in the room is the FACT that the plan is a defined benefit plan and not a defined contribution plan. The formula used to derive a retiree's pension for the most part has no regard for how much they contributed to the plan over the course of their career.
Regardless of all of this, the situation we are faced with is that we are being told by the legislators and the unions that "there is NOTHING we can do about this" contract. So we are stuck paying for these very cushy pensions for the retirees.
The only things that I see the taxpayers are left to do are:
1) put pressure on legislators to make sure that future public sector union members be required to have defined contribution plans and
2) keep pressure on their school boards to refuse teacher pay increases and insist that they pay more for their own health care.
These would seem to be the only things the taxpayers can do to control the costs and to keep the school districts from going bankrupt, unless of course, the union wants to vote to change their pension plans to more reasonable ones.
Most taxpayers don't even realize that most likely a tax increase of 43% will be needed to pay for the jump in pensions next year. (http://triblive.com/opinion/editorials/2137862-74/tax-budget-business-cuts-state-fiscal-forced-increase-necessary-quibbles )
Taxpayer CPR plans on working on both 1 and 2 and educating the taxpayers on this serious issue that is sweeping not just across our state but even across many parts of our country.
Taxpayers Concerned in Pine-Richland