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Phoenix retirement system changes being considered

Staff Report~ 12/17/2014

PHOENIX – The city of Phoenix retirement system has been under scrutiny this past year, due to voters’ consideration of Proposition 487, which would have eliminated participation in the current retirement plan and established a plan for new employees. Prop 487 was defeated in the November election, but consideration of other changes to Phoenix pensions has continued.

In March 2013, voters passed an initiative reforming the pension system. Prop 487, put forth in the November election, did not go through. An actuary retained by the city to analyze the proposal estimated that Prop 487 would have cost the city over $300 million to implement. Both proponents and opponents of the prop objected to the language of it as presented on the ballot, saying that if passed, it would be open to many legal challenges.

Phoenix council members Thelda Williams and Daniel Valenzuela held the first meeting of the Civilian Retirement Security Ad Hoc Committee, which was created by Mayor Greg Stanton. The committee is comprised of community and business leaders and is charged with recommending ways to strengthen the City of Phoenix Employees’ Retirement System (COPERS).

“We have made significant pension reforms to save taxpayers hundreds of millions in pension costs, but we can and must do more now to find additional affordable reforms,” said Williams. “Working through this committee to find meaningful options to save taxpayer dollars, while offering competitive benefits to attract talented employees, is key to a long-term sustainable system.”

Valenzuela co-chaired the effort to reform the pension system two years ago.

“It is our fiduciary responsibility to examine making additional changes to the system,” Valenzuela said. “The decisive defeat of Proposition 487 presents us with an opportunity to bring forward a more deliberate, thoughtful, and methodical approach to potentially reforming COPERS.”

Members of the committee include:

• Pamela Conboy, Wells Fargo Executive Vice President, Arizona Lead Region President.
• Rick DeGraw, Executive Vice President/Chief Administrative Officer, Copperpoint Mutual Insurance Co.
• Sue Glawe,  Vice President — Community Relations, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona.
• Pete Gorraiz, retired Phoenix Fire Department Captain, former President of the Phoenix Firefighters Association.
• Suzanne Pfister, President and CEO of St. Luke's Health Initiatives.

The committee will bring forward its recommendations no later than Jan. 31. All meetings are open to the public, and agendas can be accessed at www.phoenix.gov.