January 8th, 2021
West Orlando Online News | Study: Florida Government Pensions Crushing Middle Class
Findings from TUA’s pension project on Orlando, Florida, are featured in this article from the West Orlando Online News.
A just-released study by the Taxpayers United of America (TUA) finds that some Orlando government employees and Orange County government teachers are on track to collect huge pension payouts, and if Florida’s current government pension systems continue, they will have devastating consequences for its middle class.
Florida refuses to release actual government pensions, ignoring citizens’ right to review all payments funded by taxes. TUA calculated estimated pensions for government employees based on actual salaries of current government employees to shed light on the largest of the tightly guarded secret payouts.
“Florida lawmakers have been trying to undo the damage of administrations past, that have made crushing deals with union bosses who only concern is their own job security,” stated Rae Ann McNeilly, Director of Outreach for TUA.”
“But despite efforts to reform the pension system, it seems that government officials are still willing to protect the system by keeping it hidden from review. the costs of shielding the system from review, and ultimately, reform, are devastatingly high as cities around the country are buckling under the weight of their unfunded liabilities. Pension funds are the number one budgetary problem in the county and Florida is no different.”
“While residents across Florida face crushing taxes, falling home values, high unemployment, and, at least according to some, another recession, government employees continue to receive stunning pensions entirely funded by taxpayers who will never collect more than about $22,000 a year from Social Security.”
“As long as Florida shields its pension payments from taxpayer review and uses grossly overstated actuarial calculations, the Florida pension system remains a ticking time bomb. The purpose of our study is to put some perspective around individual pensions, to put them in terms to which the average taxpayer can relate.”
McNeilly continued, “For example, Timothy P. Ackert, a community venues project director, stands to collect an estimated annual pension of $115,292* based on his actual annual gross of $205,879. His estimated lifetime pension payout should be very lucrative $3,741,229.*”
“Rebecca W. Sutton, chief financial officer, has an estimated annual pension of $100,792*, based on her actual annual gross of $179,986, with an estimated lifetime payout of $3,270,713.*”
“Orlando’s fire assistant chief, James M. Hill, has a lifetime estimated payout of $5,345,943* with an estimated annual pension of $164,744*, based on his annual gross of $164,744*.”
“Florida’s government pension systems are crushing middle class Floridians. Replacing defined benefit pensions for all new government hires with social security and 401(k)s would eventually eliminate unfunded government pensions. Current government employees must consider a voluntary pension contribution of up to 10% to preserve their pension benefits. Additionally, all members should pay for 50% of their healthcare premiums. We need a stable system that is fair to both taxpayers and beneficiaries or pension checks will stop coming,” added McNeilly.
A recent study by the LeRoy Collins Institute, a political think tank connected to Florida State University, found that nearly one in three municipal pension plans in Florida are severely underfunded while another 30 percent received high praise. That report graded 208 pension plans offered by the state’s 100 largest cities.
*TUA submits FOIA requests for current employee salaries and estimates pensions based on the current pension laws. COLA average of 3% per year worked, uses 23 years of pension payments based on IRS form 590 LE of 85. Assumes employee worked 35 years and retired at age 62. No personal information is provided so calculations are accurate based on the necessary assumptions.