In the contrast to the approach taken toward various county problems, financial and otherwise, the media response to the city's pension problems has been MIA. After one article by the new writer assigned to the city beat, the News Sentinel has essentially been silent following a comment in one of the Pension Task Force meetings about the article, and that the reporter was "new and didn't know how things were" or something to that effect. I recall having seen only one listing for a meeting of the task force in Metro Pulse.
Surely, this must be one of the most important financial decisions the city will make for the next decade or so. Although the public does have access to video recordings of various meetings and discussions online, and a good deal of data is accessible online, even these things have not been publicized to any extent. And, in regard to the data projections available, they appear to misrepresent what is actually the case in that the Pension Board has changed the estimated rate of return for the place to 7.375 percent, whereas the highest projection of annual costs over the years available online refers to a 7.5 percent projection, reflecting lower costs than will be generated.
Besides the projected costs, there are many other facts that should be made available to the public, including the details and values of the benefits involved, how they compare to those for state employees and to employees of public entities with which Knoxville competes that have debt ratios, pension funding ratios, and bond ratings at least as good as those of Knoxville, and what the comparison to the average taxpayer's benefits might be. Finally, although there must be consideration for having a program that is competitive in attracting future employees of quality, how will the present plan, if continued and extended, affect the city's competitiveness in attracting both business and private taxpayers?
I hope you will consider a series, or at least a fairly comprehensive article, regarding this very serious problem that must be dealt with in the very near future if anything is to be changed.
Rolland F. Regester
Ed. Note: It's worth noting that Metro Pulse examined pension issues facing the city and county in our July 14, 2011 cover story, "The Super Sexy All Singing All Dancing Metro Pulse Guide Pensions!" by Jesse Fox Mayshark. The News Sentinel also published a lengthy series (albeit decidedly less sexy) last October by reporter Mike Donila.