Taxpayers United group wants pension reform

By David Skolnick


An anti-public-pension group called on state leaders to reform the pension system, pointing to the large amount of money, up to $4.3 million, given to employees of the city of Youngstown, city school district and Mahoning County during retirement.

But the figures of the top-25 estimated pensions provided Tuesday by Taxpayers United of America are based on estimated and in some cases, faulty, pension projections.

The organization held a press conference Tuesday at the Holiday Inn in Boardman.

Officials with the Chicago-based nonprofit, nonpartisan organization said it relied on the government entities for the annual salaries for the year ending Dec. 31, 2010.

But the organization listed Charles Sammarone as Youngstown’s mayor, Rod Foley as its police chief, and Anthony J. Farris as its law director for 2010. All three took office in August 2011.

The group estimated all pensions to public employees to be 67 percent of their annual salaries and made the assumption that those retiring would either retire at age 60 and live 25 more years or retire at the age of 54 and live 30 or 31 moreyears.

At the top of the city list is Sammarone, 68, whose term doesn’t expire until Dec. 31, 2013, when he’ll be 70. For Sammarone to make the group’s $3,551,000 estimated lifetime pension payout, he would have to live to be 95.

Also, the organization initially provided an incorrect list of the county’s top-25 estimated pension employees that wasn’t corrected until The Vindicator pointed out the error.

Most of the annual salaries of the top-25 school-district employees for 2010 are different from the amounts the district provided to the newspaper last year.

State pension officials don’t provide pension figures, so the organization had to make estimates, said Rae Ann McNeilly, the group’s outreach director.

The organization is seeking pension reforms for public employees such as replacing pensions for new hires and replacing them with 401(k) plans and Social Security as well as increasing employee and retiree portions of health-care premiums to 50 percent, and requiring employees to pay an additional 10 percent toward their pension contributions.

“We need reform or the pension system will collapse,” McNeilly said.

Part of the pension problem, she said, is the greed of state and national public-employee labor leaders who “use rank-and-file [members] for their own benefit,” she said.

Taxpayers United of America went to Columbus on Monday and will be in Toledo today to discuss the issue.

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