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Explore pension plan alternatives

By Staff | Jan 19, 2011

To the editor,

I have been following the newspaper articles about the Sanibel employee pension plan with interest over the past several months, and have been increasingly concerned with both the process and the content of the City Council’s approach.

The council is to be commended for reviewing the employees’ pension plan and moving to act to protect Sanibel’s future. However, the decision that the council is about to make has long-term ramifications for Sanibel — its residents, its workforce and the quality of our city.

It is important that all options be carefully considered, costed out, and analyzed before a decision of this magnitude is made. It is also important to allow sufficient opportunities for public comment, not only because that is the Sanibel way, but because the council will need broad community support for its decision as it manages the fallout from the plan it adopts.

Sanibel has benefited greatly from its cadre of valuable employees who are dedicated to the unique land management styles we know on this island. They also have a wealth of institutional knowledge that we would find difficult to replace. The council needs to set a course that is fiscally sound but also institutionally sound.

If the City Council proceeds with the drastic proposal of reducing the pension plan multiplier from 3.0 down to 1.68 — going from one of the best plans in the state to one of the worst — we are likely to have difficulty retaining our existing staff as well as recruiting new staff, which could have severe consequences for the future of Sanibel.

It was helpful to read the guest commentary by Christine Andrews in last week’s Island Reporter, which provided a simple and clear explanation of how we got to where we are, the city’s pension plan and its unfunded liability. I wholeheartedly agree with Dr. Andrew’s point that there is room for further improvement.

I hope that the council will fully explore the best pension plan alternatives for Sanibel taxpayers and our valued city employees before it makes this momentous decision.

Darla Letourneau