Market Signals and Coral Gables’ Pension Funds

I would say the market is signaling a potential recession and continuing high unemployment.

This is bad new for the Coral Gables’ pension funds, right?

What Are The Benefits Of This Deal With The General Employee Union?

The Miami Herald reports that the city of Coral Gables has negotiated a general employee contract good through Sept. 30, 2012.  Is this right?  Just one year?  Given past experience, they should start negotiating the next contract right away.

The increase in pension contributions from 5 percent to 10 percent seems quite reasonable. Current employees continue with a defined benefits program that reduces the maximum by 7.5 percentage points for a 30 year employee.

The city can select a 401(k) pension for new employees, but this seems to be at the option of the city, if I understand this explanation.

It would be interesting to hear from management of their estimate of the total annual financial savings from this agreement.

But for the city what really counts are the agreements with firefighters and police; they make up the largest share of labor costs and unfunded benefits.

Under the labor agreement that passed on Tuesday:

• Both sides have dropped the unfair labor practice complaints.

• The union agreed to the pension reductions and increases in employee contributions that the city imposed in August.

• The city and the union will implement a cost-sharing agreement. If pension costs for the general employees rise, that means that the city and the union will split the additional cost. The same provision applies to non-union management employees as well.

• The city made changes to its disciplinary procedure and layoff rules in the contract.

• General employees can sell back their sick leave time starting in October.

via Gables strikes new deal with union – Coral Gables – MiamiHerald.com.

Coral Gables Note: Unfunded Pension Liabilities Will Increase

The current slow patch in financial markets is likely to increase pension liabilities for Coral Gables with the decline or slowdown in returns of pension investments.  In any case, the unfunded pension liability is about $2oo million and the city has elected to make the minimum necessary contribution in the next budget cycle.  Rather the city prefers to increase its debt and expand capital spending, rather than try to deal with its big liabilities.

Are you sure that Mayor Slesnick was defeated?

Global Economy Doubts Affect Future Of Coral Gables

This article categorizes the risks in the growth of the global economy.

As a major center of international and regional companies, the economy of Coral Gables is no doubt directly correlated with these risks.

The risks come from the Middle East and Japan, Europe, the future of the housing market in the US, and the uncertainty about managing the US budget.

The global economy is expanding much less than it should be at this point, and the possible double dip in housing in the US will directly affect consumers and housing values in the US and, of course, in Coral Gables.

Thus there will be continuing and serious risks in the budget, spending and taxes of the city of Coral Gables with the need to make serious and permanent reductions in operating costs of the city through pension reform, the Biltmore lease renegotiations and the city’s internal organization and staffing.

First, and foremost, the world as a whole has yet to deal fully with the economic consequences of unrest in the Middle East and the tragedies in Japan. While ongoing for weeks or months, these events have not yet produced their full disruptive impact on the global economy. It is not often that the world finds itself facing the stagflationary risk of lower demand and lower supply at the same time. And it is even more unusual to have two distinct developments leading to such an outcome. Yet such is the case today.

The Middle Eastern uprisings have pushed oil prices higher, eating up consumer purchasing power while raising input prices for many producers. At the same time, Japan’s trifecta of calamities – the massive earthquake, devastating tsunami, and paralyzing nuclear disaster – have gutted consumer confidence and disrupted cross-border production chains (especially in technology and car factories).

The second big global risk comes from Europe, where Germany’s strong performance is coinciding with a debt crisis on the European Union’s periphery. Last week, Portugal joined Greece and Ireland in seeking an official bailout to avoid a default that would undermine Europe’s banking system. In exchange for emergency loans, all three countries have embarked on massive austerity. Yet, despite the tremendous social pain, this approach will make no dent in their large and rising debt overhang.

Meanwhile, housing in the United States is weakening again – the third large global risk. Even though home prices have already fallen sharply, there has been no meaningful rebound. Indeed, in some areas, prices are again under downward pressure, which could worsen if mortgage finance becomes less readily available and more expensive, as is possible.

With housing being such a critical driver of consumer behavior, any further substantial fall in home prices will sap confidence and lower spending. It will also make relocating even more difficult for Americans in certain parts of the country, aggravating the long-term-unemployment problem.

Finally, there is the increasingly visible fiscal predicament in the US, the world’s largest economy – and the one that provides the “global public goods” that are so critical to the healthy functioning of the world economy. Having used fiscal spending aggressively to avoid a depression, the US must now commit to a credible medium-term path of fiscal consolidation. This will involve difficult choices, delicate execution, and uncertain outcomes for both the federal government and the US Federal Reserve.

via How Risky is the Global Economy? by Mohamed A. El-Erian – Project Syndicate.

(Repeated) A City Agenda For Coral Gables

This is the list of issues, problems and ideas that might form part of an Agenda for the City of Coral Gables.

  • Prepare and discuss an overall NEW AGENDA for the City of Coral Gables to face the major pending problems, such as unfunded benefits, taxation, staffing and organization;
  • City Manager should routinely report to taxpayers progress on the budget and organizational changes;
  • The city needs a new Code of Ethics;
  • Change the election dates for Coral Gables to coincide with national and state elections.
  • Prepare and publicly discussion a long-range financial plan for the City of Coral Gables
  • Target a freeze and/or reduce actual amount of taxes paid by citizens (not millage rates) during the next three years;
  • Accelerate a plan of reducing pensions and health benefits, especially for firefighters and police;
  • Prepare a plan and publicly discuss how to reduce unfunded pension liabilities during the next five years;
  • Have a community town hall meeting at least twice a year to discuss the budget and other current issues;
  • Develop a realistic and flexible agreement with the Biltmore that protects the taxpayers not just now, but in the coming years;
  • Undertake a review of financial mechanisms and the defective EDEN system to establish a modern, functional accounting of spending and revenues.
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