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Pension Reform Bill Earns Senator Thanks from Florence Council

The Florence City Council thanked State Senator John Schickel (R-Union) for his work on a bill related to the County Employee Retirement System (CERS).

Schickel attended last week's city council meeting where he spoke about Senate Bill 226, known as the "CERS divorce bill". Schickel is a co-sponsor of the bill with other senators, including Chris McDaniel (R-Taylor Mill) and Wil Schroder (R-Wilder).

The bill, in part, would transfer CERS out from under the Kentucky Retirement System (KRS) and create a separate board of governance for CERS, made up of three elected officials and six members appointed by the Kentucky League of Cities or the Kentucky School Board Association.

"We all know the Kentucky Retirement System is in trouble," Schickel told council. "We could go around blaming people for it, but I think it is wasted energy. CERS is the largest part of the  of the system and it is not fully funded, but pretty well funded. If you get your own board of trustees, get the system shored up, and then focus on KRS, it's a matter of breaking the problem down so it can be solved."

Schickel said that Governor Matt Bevin had asked him to delay the bill, but Schickel opposes delay and said that he would be pushing hard for it in the next session. He promised to work closely with the Kentucky League of Cities to get the legislation passed.

Schickel said that if the state took CERS out of the equation, KRS's financial challenges could be addressed separately, and possibly fund the state police pension system on a cash basis.

"I encourage you and your employees to contact the governor and tell him you are in favor of the separation," Schickel said to council. "I remember the old City of Florence retirement system. I was on the board. When we were going to change from city to state I remember we thought this is utopia, it will be so much more efficient. So much for big government taking over."

Mayor Diane Whalen said that the bill would be beneficial to Florence.

Currently the 17-member Kentucky Retirement System Board of Trustees has only six seats for CERS representatives, and the current Kentucky Retirement System Board of Trustees Investment Committee has no representative from CERS.

The city passed a resolution thanking Schickel for making the bill a top priority, and for standing by it.

In response to a question on the matter, Schickel said that no date had yet been announced for a special session of the General Assembly later this year.

Other notes:

Mayor Whalen said the city had to cancel the Florence Night Out at the Florence Nature Center because of the weather, and that the next night out will be August 1, from 5 to 7 p.m.

Written by Patricia A. Scheyer, RCN contributor

Photo: Sen. John Schickel speaks to the Florence City Council (RCN)