Some cities in trou­ble, Combs says


Austin American-Statesman - - COMMUNITY NEWS - B Con­tact Kate Alexan­der at 445-3618. Twit­ter: @katealexan­der


Texas’ ma­jor plans — the Teacher Re­tire­ment Sys­tem of Texas and the Em­ploy­ees Re­tire­ment Sys­tem of Texas — don’t have enough as­sets to cover fu­ture obli­ga­tions, largely be­cause of their in­vest­ment re­turns dur­ing the re­ces­sion. But the funds’ as­sets do ex­ceed the 80 per­cent thresh­old ex­perts say is needed for a plan to be healthy.

Combs said there are indi­ca­tions that some lo­cal plans, par­tic­u­larly in Hous­ton, have fund­ing trou­bles.

“A Cal­i­for­nia-style prob­lem could one day be in the cards for some cities, which has the ef­fect of ex­ert­ing down­ward pres­sure on other parts of your lo­cal bud­get, which, of course, ul­ti­mately af­fects you, the tax­pay­ers,” Combs said.

Max Pat­ter­son, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Texas As­so­ci­a­tion of Pub­lic Em­ploy­ees Re­tire­ment Sys­tems, said he has been hear­ing from elected of­fi­cials that they have con­fi­dence in the pen­sion sys­tems across the state and they aren’t in­clined to push for a whole­sale con­ver­sion to the 401(k)-type sys­tem.

“I think that push has come from … a hand­ful of iso­lated, in­di­vid­ual groups that have their own cause and their own be­lief,” Pat­ter­son said.

The pen­sion report re­leased Tues­day was the fourth and fi­nal in­stall­ment in a se­ries called “Texas, It’s Your Money,” in which Combs’ of­fice has looked at lo­cal government debt and taxes. She has called for leg­is­la­tion that would re­quire lo­cal gov­ern­ments to pro­vide more in­for­ma­tion to vot­ers dur­ing bond elec­tions as well as other trans­parency mea­sures.

She noted that some lo­cal gov­ern­ments were re­sis­tant or weren’t re­spon­sive to re­leas­ing de­tails about their fi­nances.

“If it’s hard for us to find out, it’s really had for the av­er­age cit­i­zen,” Combs said.

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