City Councilwoman Stacy Head is doing one of the things that politicians usually shy away from: long-term thinking.
She proposes, and we applaud, a series of changes to the city's main pension plan. In the short term, that would mean a bit of pain, in the sense that the plan would be less generous for new employees and those hired in recent years — the last, quite a few, as the city has rebounded in staffing after Hurricane Katrina and the disastrous administration of former Mayor Ray Nagin.
But the consequence of doing nothing is to leave every city retiree, and future retiree, more at risk in a financially challenged system.
The changes would mean newer employees — who make up almost two-thirds of the workers enrolled in the New Orleans Municipal Employees' Retirement System, or NOMERS — would accrue benefits at a slower rate and new hires would have to work longer before being vested in the system or becoming eligible for retirement.
The proposal also would either do away with cost-of-living adjustments for all retirees until the system is nearly fully funded or else require the city and employees to kick in extra money to fund those increases.
Yes, painful for a while, but the kind of long-term financial planning that will result in, to use Head's words, "a sustainable pension plan for our lifetime and our children's lifetime."
The system is now recovering from the 2008 financial crash, but to act as though it's fully healthy is to ignore the future prospects for the system and those it serves. "That kind of loss in value is not something that you rebound from overnight," said Jesse Evans Jr., the system's director, said of the market crash.
He's right, and Head's plan is not as radical as some might propose; it retains a traditional pension system instead of the retirement accounts adopted by most private businesses. But the price of keeping what are called defined-benefit pensions is diligent financial responsibility by officials elected and appointed.
The new plan is the product of years of discussions about smaller adjustments that can be made now and bolster the financial strength of the system for many years ahead.
We encourage the City Council to adopt the proposals.
We know it's an election year. But putting off these kind of common-sense reforms avoids a responsibility of the council to plan for the future, including a healthier retirement system to pay benefits to today's retirees and workers in the years ahead.
New Orleans City Councilwoman Stacy Head is proposing changes that would make the city’s mai…