PERS commission meets over retirement system

Published: Sep. 7, 2011 at 8:21 PM CDT|Updated: Mar. 2, 2013 at 8:04 AM CST
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The fate of the state's Public Employees Retirement System, known as PERS, is now being guided by a 12 member commission, made up of business leaders, elected officials and financial experts led by Gulfport Mayor George Schloegel.

"No decision will be made by the group only recommendations, if there are any, after we've completed our study," said Schloegel.

The commission was put together by Governor Haley Barbour back in August to examine the financial, management and investment structures as well as determining the legality of modifying the system. All in an effort to dodge a potential problem in the long run.

"In the short, term there's no issue, the question is as we get out years and years from now," said Barbour.

Concerns of sustainability prompted the creation of the commission. Currently, Barbour says the system is only funded at about 60 percent of where it should be and pays out more benefits than it's structurally set up for.

Now, the commission will look at proposed changes. With the report from the commission set to come out in mid November any changes to the system would require legislative action. That would mean one of two things. Governor Barbour could call a special session or wait until the new legislature meets in January.

With about 165,000 active members in the system and about 79,000 retirees, some are left wondering if they should be concerned.

"It kind of concerned me when I heard this was going to happen because I thought there wasn't a problem," said a retired Gulfport school teacher at the meeting Wednesday.

"I don't think they should be concerned. I think they ought to be glad that somebody is studying it to allay any concerns that might be out there because we're seeing concerns all over the country," said Schloegel.

Previous steps have already been made, such as increasing the state's vesting period from four years to eight, but the question Barbour wants answered is will those steps combined with any new proposals be enough.

During Wednesday's meeting, the commission awarded a contract to a firm which will help in the study, but must first be approved by the governor. The commission will also hold a public hearing next Wednesday at 2 p.m. inside the state capitol.

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