Column: Duluth teacher pension fund joins many in seeking cashThoughts on four public issues of local interest still under debate...
By: Virgil Swing, Duluth News Tribune
Thoughts on four public issues of local interest still under debate:
The Duluth Teachers Retirement Fund Association says the fund has only 63 percent of what it needs to pay pensions because of investment losses when the stock market tanked in 2008. But almost every pension fund took a big hit then, so Duluth’s not the only one hurting and hoping for state help.
Jay Stoffel, association executive director, says a state pension panel appreciated that Duluth scaled back its earlier proposal for a 2 percent cost-of-living increase to 1 percent. Since the Duluth fund had gone without such raises for three years, this isn’t really scaling back — just asking for a smaller increase.
Stoffel also cites problems created because nearly twice as many active teachers were paying into the fund in 1995 as were collecting, but nearly 470 fewer teachers contributed last year than were collecting pensions.
However, that trend was largely predictable and shouldn’t be a surprise. If the local fund can’t afford actuarial services, the state should provide it. The Duluth association is asking modest contribution increases from teachers and the school district.
raising concern among Lakeside neighbors. The district has no offers so far for the former Rockridge School, and residents living nearby want to limit how the site is used.
But sale proceeds are supposed to help pay the infamous Red Plan costs, and a district official said any limits will make the site harder to sell. City Councilor Jennifer Julsrud, who represents Lakeside and for now opposes a rezoning to make the site more salable, also wants a trail easement across the land. But allowing an easement and refusing to rezone will make it harder to sell.
Julsrud has been one of the more level-headed of the current councilors and hopefully won’t cripple sale prospects. She rightly complained that no School Board members attended hearings on uses of the Rockridge site. That’s just one more example of a lack of board involvement in issues it should weigh in on.
elephant called the Northern Lights Express high-speed train. It’s a
potential white elephant only because almost all the money spent so far has been for planning, not building. If they build it, they (enough passengers to make it feasible) won’t come.
But the latest of many meetings to talk about this bad idea is set for Thursday in Cambridge. Before any more local or state money is poured down this rathole, someone should talk to leaders in Congress on prospects for the federal bucks the NLX needs.
Federal lawmakers, who have serious financial problems of their own, have mostly stopped providing money for even the most logical high-speed rail projects. The NLX isn’t one of those.
Supporters say unions will help these workers negotiate with state officials on health and safety issues, regulations and state subsidies for such care. But an association, which anyone can form, could work for them on such issues.
So we have the specter of DFL lawmakers, who represent the management side in this issue, encouraging creation of a union to bargain for more money from a state budget that, as of now, has a deficit.
All involved seem to agree that most families with kids in daycare can’t pay much more for that service. So everyone looks to the deep pockets in St. Paul. But that’s our tax money in those deep pockets — and many people are down in St. Paul right now also seeking more of that cash, like the Duluth teachers’ pension fund.
Budgeteer opinion columnist Virgil Swing has been writing about Duluth for many years. Contact him at email@example.com.