Friday, October 10, 2008

Burris On Tackling the Pension Issue

I just recently sent off an e-mail inviting Mr. Burris to address the group.


Burris On Tackling the Pension Issue

City Manager Greg Burris wrote an op-ed piece for the Sunday News-Leader this week, an we're re-printing the article below. Mr. Burris will soon begin to "hit the road" with a presentation about the how and why the Police/Fire pension fund got into trouble and how he will propose turning the situation around. Burris wants to make his case in person whenever possible, and so he's asking community groups who would like to hear more about the situation to contact him. The contact info is in the piece below:

It's been a busy first few weeks in my new position as city manager, and I wanted to take this opportunity to let the community know what we're working on at the city.

First, I want to thank all the people, including our employees, who've been so welcoming and encouraging as I've launched into this new role. It's great to know how many people in the community are rooting for the city's success in both the challenges and aspirations we have for our community.

As promised, I've plunged immediately into working with all the various stakeholders to develop a solution for the underfunded police/fire pension system. The fact that the nation's financial markets fell into crisis during these past few weeks underscores both the necessity and urgency of dealing with this situation as quickly as possible.

I know that no solution will be successful unless we have support from all the constituencies immediately affected by it -- our Public Safety employees and their labor groups, all other city employees, the City Council -- before we ask for your support for a unified solution.

Before too much longer, we'll hit the road with a presentation to explain as succinctly as possible how we got to where we are; what needs to happen to turn the system around; and how we'll propose going about it. If you belong to a civic group, club, church organization or similar group and would like to schedule a presentation in the coming weeks, please call Kathy Hardt in the City Manager's Office at 864-1006 or send an e-mail to:

One of the main issues that remains to be resolved for a long-term solution is how to provide secure pension benefits to new police and fire employees. There are advantages and disadvantages to consider in maintaining the current police-fire pension system, which is relatively small and self-funded, versus moving new employees into the statewide retirement system called LAGERS that covers all of our other employees. To reach a conclusion on that, I've asked our Deputy City Manager Evelyn Honea to chair a group studying that very specific issue and make its recommendation.

A second new task force chaired by Human Resources Director Sheila Maerz will review and update the cities by which Springfield can benchmark itself on measures ranging from employee pay and productivity to the quality of services and amenities important to our community. We think we can learn from the best practices in relevant cities and set standards to which we will aspire.

Many of these types of priorities are appropriately set by the City Council members whom you elect to represent you. Our City Council members are very interested in discussing and updating their priorities and, as promised, we've started working on that. At a recent City Council lunch, we started off with an initial "blue-sky" brainstorming process to bring out all of the issues they'd like to tackle. They covered the gamut of infrastructure needs, defining our core services, making sure our future is sustainable through energy and resource conservation, streamlining our development process, preserving our neighborhoods and more.

Knowing that the resources of both City Council and staff are finite, we'll go back to that big list again on Oct. 28 to start honing down to a set of top priorities that we can focus on accomplishing within three to five years. This long-term strategic plan will provide a template for our budget process and resource allocation along with the core services that remain our strongest commitment.

It's been a busy start, as I knew it would be. I plan to keep you updated on a regular basis and encourage residents to watch for future postings on our CityConnect site at If you have particular questions or topics, you can drop us an e-mail on the Web site as well. I look forward to meeting many more of you in person, as well, at public meetings and events. Thank you again for your warm welcome.

Greg Burris - City Manager for Springfield.

posted by Mike Brothers, Public Information

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