Mayra Banuelos

Mayra Banuelos

IPPFA Press Release: Pension Obligation Bonds Study
Source: IPPFA

Illinois Public Pension Fund Association urges communities to examine Pension Obligation Bonds as possible solution to unfunded liabilities

 

The Illinois Public Pension Fund Association (IPPFA) urges communities to examine Pension Obligation Bonds as a possible solution to unfunded pension liability issues. The IPPFA is offering a free informational bulletin on the benefits and risks of these bonds to assist police and fire pension funds and their local governments in any decision-making process.

 

“Pension Obligation Bonds are not a risky financing bet,” said IPPFA President James McNamee. “These bonds are a well thought-out technique in which the possibility exists to substantially lower the taxes needed to meet pension obligations.”

 

While the IPPFA neither endorses nor opposes the use of Pension Obligation Bonds, the organization encourages all pension funds and their mayors and treasurers to discuss the option with their bond and legal advisors.

 

Communities and fire districts can issue government bonds and place the bond sale proceeds into their pension funds to attain full funding. This technique can work if the investment return in the local pension fund over several decades exceeds the interest rate that must be paid on the bonds, as it typically would in many municipalities. If the Pension Obligation Bond approach is successful, local residents and businesses would pay less in taxes to retire the municipality’s unfunded pension liability.

 

The IPPFA bulletin notes that the local tax savings comes both from the low interest rate on the bonds and the elimination of the so-called “ramp” financing, in which higher pension fund payments are made in later years. The bulletin notes, however, that the Pension Obligation Bond approach is not for everyone, particularly local pension funds with a lower rate of investment return.

 

“The Center for Retirement Research at Boston College found that the best chance for success is when bonds are issued by financially sound and well run governments who understand the risk and have a pension reform or financing strategy,” McNamee said. “Bonds issued by fiscally stressed cities seeking budgetary relief are riskier.”

The IPPFA was founded in 1985 as a not-for-profit organization whose mandate was to educate public pension fund trustees. In 2009 the IPPFA became the primary education provider for public pension fund trustees in the state of Illinois, and its members manage more than $18 billion in pension assets.

 

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To view IPPFA’s study on Pension Obligation Bonds, please click here.

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Illinois Police Officers’ Pension Investment Fund – Public Notice (June 10, 2020)
Source: IPOPIF

PUBLIC NOTICE: ILLINOIS POLICE OFFICERS’ PENSION INVESTMENT FUND

June 10, 2020

The election committee meeting scheduled for Tuesday, June 9, 2020 on the Zoom digital platform was briefly held until such time as the participating members were informed that no members of the public could join the meeting to listen or participate. Unfortunately, there was an error on the Zoom account used for this meeting, and the meeting was immediately suspended once the error was discovered.

We apologize for the inconvenience, and have re-scheduled the meeting to Monday, June 15, 2020 at 1:00 pm. with proper posting and meeting information provided to ensure members of the public can participate and listen to the meeting. The board did not take any action at the June 9, 2020 meeting. The meeting minutes be reviewed by the Committee and posted after the conclusion of the June 15, 2020 meeting.

Thank you for your understanding.

– Illinois Police Officers’ Pension Investment Fund

To download or print this public notice, please click here.

 

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Coronavirus, Interest Rates and Volatility
Source: Northern Trust Asset Management, NIRS

A presentation by Northern Trust Asset Management and the National Institute on Retirement Security (NIRS) on the Coronavirus, Interest Rates and Volatility.

To download the presentation, please click here.

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Economic Implications of the COVID-19 Crisis (Webinar)
Source: Lazard Asset Management, NIRS

A webinar by Lazard Asset Management and the National Institute on Retirement Security (NIRS) on the Economic Implication of the COVID-19 Crisis.

To download the presentation, please click here.

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COVID-19 Impact on Pension Board Operations

COVID-19 Impact on Pension Board Operations

By IPPFA General Counsel Richard Reimer and IPPFA Deputy Counsel Brian LaBardi

“The COVID-19 pandemic will no doubt dramatically affect pension boards from an economic standpoint. Besides the obvious long-term economic impact, the current environment will have other short-term impact on pension board operations.

Conducting Quarterly or Special Board Meetings
On April 1, 2020, Governor Pritzker entered Executive Order 2020-18 continuing the suspension of certain portions of the Open Meetings Act until April 30, 2020. The prior Executive Order 2020-07 entered March 16th, initially impacting meeting requirements, had been set to expire April 7th.

As pertains to meetings of public bodies, it prohibits “public and private gatherings of any number of people occurring outside a single household” and further prohibits gatherings of 10 or more people unless exempted by the order. The Order also suspends portions of the Open Meetings Act (“OMA”) to make it easier for public bodies to meet remotely. The source of this authority as applied to non-State agencies is unclear.

While remote participation in a public meeting is provided under limited circumstances in the OMA, the Statute as written requires the physical attendance of a quorum (3 members in the case of a pension board). The Governor’s Order waives the physical attendance requirement of the OMA in addition to the qualifying events necessary for phone participation by a trustee. If a meeting is held pursuant to the terms of the Order, the public body may provide video, audio, and/or telephonic access to the meetings to allow for public participation. At the time of this writing, exemptions provided by the Executive Order expire on April 30, 2020.

The Attorney General’s Office has also issued a guide to which public bodies can refer. What the Executive Order did not do was suspend the requirement meetings be held in locations open and accessible to the public nor did it suspend the requirement the public be allowed to comment. This would seem to suggest that, while physical attendance by the trustees may be waived, there must still be a way for the public to participate even by phone in a location that is convenient and open to the public. At a minimum, the Attorney General suggests providing the conference call number and login information on the notice of the meeting thereby allowing for public participation via phone. In addition to providing the call-in information, the Public Access counselor also suggests allowing the public to comment in advance by email or voicemail. Any comments received in that manner would be read into the record at the meeting.

Another frequent question given the current climate involves “emergency” as opposed to “special” meetings under the OMA. There is no case law or statutory definition of what constitutes an “emergency” under the OMA. However, as noted in one of our past newsletters, in prior opinions, the PAC has adopted the dictionary definition of emergency as, “an unforeseen combination of circumstances or the resulting state that calls for immediate action.” Prior PAC decisions focused on “unanticipated circumstances” as the lynchpin for whether a meeting was an emergency. Depending on the action the Board is contemplating, a meeting may be able to meet this definition. However, the safer route would still be to call a “special” meeting with 48 hours’ notice. Please note, the posting requirements of the OMA were not modified by the Governor’s Executive Order. A special meeting must be posted at least 48 hours’ in advance at both the principal office and location of the meeting. Notice for an emergency meeting must be given as soon as practicable, but in any event prior to the holding of such meeting, and to any news medium which has filed an annual request for notice.

The situation remains very fluid and seems to change on a day to day basis. It is certainly possible additional executive orders will be issued impacting pension board meetings. For the time being, as noted above, the current order will expire April 30, 2020.

Impact on Disability and Annual Examinations
In addition to complications in conducting quarterly or special meetings, the COVID-19 pandemic will also have a dramatic impact on disability pension applications pending before pension boards. Many pension boards are facing a delay in obtaining treating physicians medical records. Custodians for medical records are either closed or operating on minimum staffing levels. The same is true for outside medical record storage companies. This has the effect of delaying the scheduling of independent medical examinations inasmuch as those are not set until all medical records from treating and examining physicians are obtained.

Most vendors providing independent medical examination services have suspended scheduling due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Physicians are either wary of any patient contact or have been tied up rendering medical care and treatment to patients. In some cases, these physicians will perform a “medical records review”, but the Board should do so sparingly, and only in cases where an actual medical examination is not necessary.

The same is true for required annual examinations of police officers and firefighters receiving disability benefits under the age of 50. Those exams can be rescheduled or postponed until such time as the physician feels safe to conduct annual exams.

Further updates will be provided as additional developments warrant.”

If you would like to download the article, please click here.

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Pension Question for Police Officers Returning to Work Part-Time
Source: IPPFA and Lauterbach & Amen, LLP

Pension Question for Police Officers Returning to Work Part-Time

A police department has part-time hourly officers who are not in the Article 3 Fund, and the department may hire back some of their own retirees temporarily because of staff shortages due to COVID-19. When asked if this would impact the officers’ pensions, our opinion is that they can be hired into a position not covered by Article 3. However, another question posed is will there be tax ramifications of going back to work for the same town before the age of 59.5?

Answers:

  • If the member is being rehired into a police officer role, they must (re)join the Article 3 Fund and their retirement benefit must be suspended.
  • If the member is being rehired into a non-police officer role, they can continue to collect their retirement pension and if they are unter the age of 59.5, their 2020 1099R will reflect a “1” in Box 7.
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A Meeting of the Police Officers’ Pension Investment Fund
Source: POPIF

NOTICE: A MEETING OF THE POLICE OFFICERS’ PENSION INVESTMENT FUND

To be held on Monday, February 24, 2020 at 9:30am.

You can view the agenda by clicking here.

Peoria Police Department
Training Room
600 SW Adams St.
Peoria, IL 61602

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IPPFA Praises Signing of First Responders Suicide Prevention Act

SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Public Pension Fund Association (IPPFA) today praised the signing of the Illinois First Responders Suicide Prevention Act, a new law the IPPFA drafted that will help fight the number one cause of duty-related deaths in the state. Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed the legislation today at the Illinois State Police headquarters in Springfield, and the law takes effect immediately.

“This new law is a major step toward saving the lives of everyday heroes, those who run toward danger rather than away from it and have for years suffered silently because of it,” said IPPFA President James McNamee. “This will give police officers and firefighters the assistance they need to save their own lives while they work every day to save ours.”

The legislation, which overwhelmingly passed the Illinois General Assembly as House Bill 2766, provides that any emergency services or public safety employee may refer any fellow first responder for mental health services through an employee assistance or peer counseling program. If such a program is not available through the employee’s agency, the legislation authorizes that help may be sought from any available mental health assistance program. Most importantly, the bill mandates that any oral or written information communicated during these mental health sessions would be strictly confidential and could not be used in any judicial hearing, arbitration, or other adjudicatory proceeding.

The IPPFA drafted the bill more than two years ago. It was written by IPPFA board member and first responder Shawn Curry, and the legislation gained steam following several recent first responder suicides in Illinois.

“Crimes, fires and other emergencies have not gone down, and as we place more duties on fewer people, those people need to have access to confidential help when they need it,” McNamee said. “The attempted suicide rate for first responders such as police officers and firefighters is more than ten times the rate of the general public, and this new law will literally save lives.”

This spring and summer the IPPFA partnered with the Northern Illinois University Psychology Department to develop training for first responder mental health service providers. This training will be  accredited through the university and can be taught through the state’s  university system.

A recent study by the Ruderman Family Foundation examined depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and other issues affecting first responders and the rates of suicide in departments nationwide. The study determined that first responder suicides outnumber all line of duty deaths in the United States, making it the number one cause of death for firefighters, police officers, probation and corrections officers, paramedics and ambulance personnel.

The IPPFA was founded in 1985 as a not-for-profit organization whose mandate was to educate public pension fund trustees. In 2009 the IPPFA became the primary education provider for public pension fund trustees in the state of Illinois, and its members manage more than $18 billion in pension assets.

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To download a copy of the press release, please click here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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