2012-03-01 / Letters

Leland pensions not sustainable is misleading

To the Editor:

Your Feb. 23rd article “Leland pensions may not be sustainable” nicely sums up a complex MPSERS discussion. However, the title is misleading.

The rapid increase in K-12 schools’ pension contributions is “unsustainable.” It takes dollars out of the classroom and squeezes already cashstrapped schools. K-12 schools have absolutely no control over this actuarially calculated rate. K-12 schools will always have to make pension contributions, but need State help to manage this wildly variable expense.

Illogically, Proposal A requires K-12 schools to use scarce per-pupil dollars to manage a long-term State balance sheet issue. The state has other tools in its financial kit to manage $40 billion in pension assets.

While reforms must be considered, the state could bring immediate relief to K-12 schools and strengthen the pension plan by using available funds allocated for K-12 schools.

Use the School Aid Fund surplus to pay down long-term pension obligations and reduce K-12 schools’ contribution rate. A 1 percent rate drop would reduce Leland’s expenses by about $30,000 (more on an equitable 2X formula). I’m sure all K-12 schools would welcome this immediate financial relief.

A great political debate is underway about pensions, but MPSERS is not in a short-term cash crisis nor are pensions “unsustainable.” Like K-12 schools, pension plans are reeling from, adapting to, and solving the decadeslong effects of declining populations, fewer working teachers, rising health insurance, and more retirees.

The State of Michigan must make sensible and responsible choices to help K-12 schools now.

Bill Robinson

President, Board of Education

Leland Public School District

Grand Ave., Leland

Return to top