The single best thing that could be done for Arizona cities when federal stimulus money arrives Governor Ducey, would be for the state to pay the next six months of the Public Safety Personnel Retirement System, or PSPRS, payments for any city that requests it.
Bisbee would be most grateful for that one decision since 19.1%, or $1.4 million of our general fund budget is consumed by PSPRS payments. If those payments were made by the State, that money would be freed up to meet the extraordinary problems (service cuts, equipment failures, employee layoffs) caused by the precipitous decline in sales tax revenue.
In the long term, the best thing you could do for the health of Arizona cities would be to advocate for and lead a huge reform of the PSPRS. Year after year state legislators, including long time Cochise County politicians Rep. Gale Griffin and Sen. David Gowan, have shown no desire to deal with the looming PSPRS debacle facing cities. It is time for your leadership Governor.
The retirement system for police, fire, legislators, and judges is in dire straits beset by poor administration, sex and spending scandals, bad judgment, sketchy loans, terrible returns on investments, and old-fashioned incompetence.
What is needed is one retirement system for all state employees. Although there may have been a case to be made for disparate systems many years ago, there is no rational reason for the current splintered systems. It is a relatively simple matter to shift actively employed pension participants and all new hires into the Arizona State Retirement System effective the start of fiscal-year 2022 and allow PSPRS to wither away, but with a dedicated funding source, such as a percentage of a new gas tax, to protect retirees.
Overhead would be reduced by abolishing the current administrative apparatus of and appointing a four-person committee to oversee investments. As current retirees pass on, the amount needed to service the PSPRS fund would begin dropping and eventually fade away to nothing.
Although it sounds complicated it really isn’t. Pension formulas are used for all pension systems. ASRS, a well-run pension system by all accounts, would benefit by the steady influx of ‘new’ cash just at a time when many in the system will be retiring.
With this kind of change active participants would be secure in the knowledge their pensions would be protected-and not at the whim of cities who may face bankruptcy due to the current onerous system. And public safety pensioners would be assured of continuity in their benefits. Cities would not have to face making decisions about cutting services to finance pensions.
Fred Miller, owner, Copper City Inn, Bisbee