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Local News

Bend La Pine Schools Superintendent is hopeful for PERS Reform


The big stock market crash happened years ago, but local cities, counties, school districts and state agencies are still footing the bill for the big loss.
 
The state statute mandates that the Public Employee Retirement System portfolio is funded at 80 percent.  Bend La Pine Schools Superintendent Ron Wilkinson says with such a big crash, it's taking awhile to make up the difference and get the fund back up to the level the statute mandates.  The fund wasn't immediately made whole because the amount of increase is capped so that goverment agencies don't have to come up with a big chunk of money all at once.
 
The state is now announcing the latest amount of increase, the total amount of the increase statewide is almost one billion dollars and that breaks down to about 4 mllion more for the Bend La Pine District to pitch in.  Wilkinson says PERS will now make up 23 percent of the district's payroll budget.  And, employee wages and benefits account for about 55 percent of the total school district buget.
 
He says this is a huge drain on all government agencies and state lawmakers need to address it now.
 
 "AND I THINK ITS ABSOLUTELY CRITICAL IN THIS SESSION THAT WE DON'T DANCE AROUND THIS ISSUE-THAT THE LEGISLATORS WILL ACTUALLY TAKE A LOOK AT IT- WE BELIEVE THERE ARE SOME CHANGES THAT WE COULD MAKE THAT WILL ACTUALLY START REDUCING THE UN-FUNDED ACTUARILITY LIABILITY AND MAKE THE FUND MORE STABLE FOR THE LONG TERM."
 
He's glad to hear the governor, treasurer and more state lawmakers seriously talking about PERS reform.  In past sessions ideas have come forward, but partisan politics took over.
 
"unfortunately -it  sorta turned into a partisan issue in the last two sessions - and it should not be a partisan issue it needs to be a bi-partisan solution to find a way to get through the situation. its obviously a huge impact to schools- but its also and impact to all state agencies because of the portion of their money that goes to this one single item."
 
Wilkinson says that State Representative Jason Conger of Bend was pushing for reform last session and has new bills in the works right now.   

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