On 4/3/2018, the final meeting of the Fairfax County Retirement Workgroup met for the final time and voted on on potential recommendations to change the County Employee Retirement Systems. We have been working to keep our membership informed, but documents on the workgroup and the meeting schedule since November can be found here.
After months of deliberations, the final vote was 4 against any change recommendations (our employee representatives), 3 for changes, including Supervisor Penny Gross, 1 abstention by Supervisor John Cook, and 1 not present.
We are very appreciative to the employee representatives in representing County employees. They worked professionally and responsibly and did not let this workgroup just become a rubber stamp in allowing to make arbitrary, unnecessary, and potentially harmful changes to some of the strongest retirement systems in the country.
Much is being made of the recent efforts of the County to put money in to the retirement systems. Many detractors and those with an anti- defined benefit slant continue to spin this as the County "propping up" retirement systems. This could not be further from the truth. The current efforts to devote money into the retirement systems was a plan, implemented by then County Executive Ed Long, to increase the speed in which the systems get over 90% funded. Left on their own, they would continue to perform over expectations and get to full funding on their own strength.
Defined Benefit Retirement Systems are not designed to "get rich quick". They are designed to provide low, slow, safe growth and be there in perpetuity. In fact, we have seen some systems in other parts of the country that are attempting to chase the market to make up for previous shortfalls and mismanagement, only to now be impacted by recent downturns and market volatility. In Fairfax County, our systems are not designed to be impacted in such a way, and have assumed vary safe, responsible, and sustainable growth rates.
From here, there is still much work to do. We stand with our colleagues throughout the Fairfax County Workforce, from Public Safety, General County, and Fairfax County Public Schools, in protecting our retirement systems. We have seen no evidence that these systems are unsustainable or not performing as they should. In fact what has been seen time again is that these systems are healthy, well invested, and administered by very dedicated Boards of Trustees and administrative staff. They provide some of the most cost effective investments of taxpayer dollars in the workforce. The best thing the County can do is stop trying to manipulate them and let them do their jobs!