The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

September 4, 2013

Police pension plan proposed

HARRISBURG — A state lawmaker has introduced a bill that would create a statewide pension system for local police, a move he says will save municipalities millions in administrative costs.

State Rep. Glenn Grell’s bill would require that all new police officers be enrolled in the statewide pension system. The legislation would allow municipalities to completely roll their full plans into the statewide system as long as their plan is in strong financial shape and existing members agree.

Grell, R-Cumberland, said that struggling plans are barred from merging with the statewide plan in order to keep the bill from being seen as a bailout of poorly-managed pensions.

Local governments in Pennsylvania operate 3,200 pensions for a variety of different types of employees, including more than 900 for police officers.

Grell said those pensions have millions in administrative costs that could be saved by merging the plans. The police pensions tend to be among the most inefficient in terms of administrative costs because many local forces only have a handful of officers.

An analysis by the Pennsylvania Employee Retirement Committee estimated the average cost of administering a plan of 10 or fewer members is $1,568 per member, Grell said. The cost of administering a plan with 500 or more members is  $334 per member.

Grell said 70 percent of local police pensions have fewer than 10  members.

The measure would keep the police retirees in a defined-benefit pension plan at a time when Republicans, including the governor, are pushing to move public employees into 401(k)-style retirement plans.

“We cannot afford another defined-benefit plan,” said state Rep. Fred Keller, R-Union.

It is an argument made earlier this year when another Republican lawmaker introduced a bill that would solve the municipal pension crisis by mandating that the pensions be converted from defined-benefit plans to cash balance plans. That bill was strongly backed by lobbying groups for local governments.

Grell’s bill is preferred by the Fraternal Order of Police.

“We think it’s the right answer,” said Les Neri, president of the State Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police.

Neri said the campaigns to alter the pensions for public sector employees – both at the state and local levels – are “distasteful” because they pit workers against workers. The problems with financially-ailing pensions are mostly due to poor decisions by elected officials who failed to make the employer contributions for years at a time, Neri said.

Still, of all government employees, police officers may have the strongest case for needing defined-benefit plans.

“We don’t want police officers who are working in their 60s,” he said. “Because they have less longevity in their jobs, they don’t have the opportunity to pay into their pensions.”

The defined-benefit pension also is important for police because it provides a funding mechanism to provide benefits for officers injured in the line of duty.

“If an officer is only on the force a couple years and then he’s hurt, under a defined-contribution plan, he’d have nothing,” Neri said.

Lawmakers said they expect neither plan addressing municipal pensions will be considered until after the Legislature comes up with some strategy to deal with the ailing pensions for state workers. The two main pensions for state workers have a combined unfunded liability of $47 billion.

“We can’t tell local governments what to do with their pensions until we figure out what to do with ours,” Grell said.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Local News
  • Denne, Williams & Stanton Records hearing scheduled

    A Cambria County judge will consider complaints filed by two Johnstown residents seeking documents related to the city’s municipal waste water operation at hearing at the end of this month.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Sen. Bob Casey Casey targets heroin

    The heroin trade has brought addiction, death, violence and theft to Johnstown and other Pennsylvania communities.
    Figuring out how to deal with those issues is difficult for local, state and federal officials.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Drive-in to open with high-tech projector

    Drive-in movie theaters and the term “state of the art” seldom share the same sentence.
    But that will soon be the case for the Silver Drive-In, it’s owner said. The Scalp Avenue site, often marketed as a nostalgic summer night escape, soon will boast a high-end projector capable of displaying the latest and greatest blockbusters in razor sharp high-definition, theater owner Rick Rosco said.

    April 18, 2014

  • Sheetz work underway

    Earthmoving is underway at Richland Town Centre for a nearly 6,500-square-foot Sheetz store.
    And the real estate broker marketing the land says a 3,000-square-foot retail building will be built next door.

    April 18, 2014

  • Smith, Shakir Mosi Police seize heroin, money in Prospect

    Johnstown police reported that several bricks of heroin, along with $4,000 in cash and a handgun, were discovered in the city's Prospect neighborhood around 4 a.m. Friday. An arrest warrant has been issued for the man be­lieved to be the owner or renter of the two homes raided.

    April 18, 2014 2 Photos

  • Comedy night targets serious problem

    Animal advocates are using comedy to take aim at a serious problem.
    The third annual Funny Fundraiser to benefit the Nardecchia Spay and Neuter Fund will be held at 8 p.m. May 16 at Ace’s, 316 Chestnut St. in the Cambria City section of Johnstown.

    April 18, 2014

  • Local briefs 4/19/2014

    April 18, 2014

  • Early morning police raid in Prospect area leads to arrest warrant

    Johnstown police reported that several bricks of heroin, along with $4,000 in cash and a handgun, were discovered in the city's Prospect neighborhood around 4 a.m. this morning.

    April 18, 2014

  • Home is Where The Tribune-Democrat is Delivered!

    April 18, 2014

  • new councilman Judge fills City Council vacancy

    A lifelong Johnstown resident who has never sought election to public office was named Thursday to fill the vacancy on City Council.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

Poll

Do you think that Jack Williams will get the 270 signatures from city residents needed in order to have a referendum placed on a municipal ballot to have the city's pressure test mandate repealed?

Yes
No
I'm not sure
     View Results
House Ads