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Why not take yes for an answer?

By Staff | Dec 9, 2010

To the editor,

In 2009, City Council set a goal of reducing pension plan costs. Through Sept. 30, 2010 it had spent in excess of $100,000 of taxpayers’ money to obtain a professional and nonpolitical recommendation on how to best achieve that goal.

On Nov. 11, 2010 a special magistrate — chosen by the city and its employees — issued specific and detailed recommendations for pension plan changes in order to accomplish the goal of reducing costs. The magistrate found that, “The City of Sanibel’s financial position is a healthy one.” The employees are “willing to cooperate with the City in its effort to cut costs” and that, “The taxpayers of the City of Sanibel will not be adversely affected since these amendments to the Pension Plan can only result in lower pension costs…”.

Council should now accept his carefully reasoned recommendations rather than impose its own ad hoc changes. With employees having agreed to cuts and the special magistrate setting out specifics, why not take yes for an answer?

The city has spent over $100,000 of taxpayers’ money on outside law firms and actuaries, in addition to the unmeasured expense of significant staff hours devoted to this project. The cost of the special magistrate is in addition to the over $100,000 of cash outlays. Legal expenses continue to be incurred. Why waste taxpayer’s money by paying for expert advice and then ignoring it?

The city should implement the magistrate’s recommendations. The magistrate issued his report after hearing two different sets of proposed changes. These changes meet the city’s goal of reducing pension plan costs while making sure that reductions do not slam lower paid workers who have the least ability to save for retirement.

The special magistrate’s report was clear, specific and detailed. This is not about finances. It is about fairness and loyalty. Let’s take politics out of the equation and do what’s best for Sanibel in the long-term. City Council should accept his recommendations.

Employees are asking you to contact City Council at sancouncil@mysanibel.com. Ask Council members to ensure that tax dollars already spent are not wasted. Ask them to act on the professional and unbiased advice they requested and are paying for, advice that achieves the goal they set for themselves in 2009. Ask them to please take yes for an answer.

If you are interested in reading the special magistrate’s report, learning more about costs the city has incurred, reading the city’s rationale for cuts, about the employees’ proposal to add a defined contribution element to the plan, or reviewing the answers to frequently asked questions concerning city finances, please visit www.oursanibel.org.

Roy Gibson