Throughout the autumn of 2019, the Arkansas State Legislature's Joint Committee on Public Retirement and Social Security Programs held public meetings across the state with presentations provided by the various public retirement systems of Arkansas.
Representatives for APERS and several other state supported systems, including those for teachers (ATRS), local police and firefighters (LOPFI), and Highway Department personnel (ASHERS), presented overviews of each system’s fiscal health. All discussed their current funding status, unfunded liability, and other issues of concern.
At each meeting, APERS Executive Director Duncan Baird or CFO Jason Willett gave background on fundamental principles, including fiduciary responsibility and prudent investing, and explained the critical concept of unfunded liability in pension systems. Once these foundations had been laid, APERS explored how money comes into the system (contributions and investment returns) and how it goes out (benefits paid). APERS explained that investments make up a big part of the income side of the equation and discussed the difficulty of projecting future investment returns due to the volatility of the market.
The Joint Committee members stressed how important it is to ensure that a retirement system is adequately funded for the future. They did not discuss any specific plans of action or potential legislation.
Each of the town hall meetings was approximately two hours long. The first hour was dedicated to the presentations by the various retirement systems, and the second hour was open for questions from the audience. Hearing the concerns of the systems’ active and retired members was a primary reason for holding these town hall meetings. At every session, audience members asked pertinent questions, raised valid points, and expressed key concerns, which led to some lively conversations. The Joint Committee members and the representatives of the retirement systems made every effort to answer all the questions, while making notes for future discussion.
The town halls had good turnouts regardless of the location or the weather. Almost every meeting attracted between two and three hundred attendees. Over the course of the eleven meetings, the Joint Committee got to discuss our statesupported retirement systems with thousands of public employees, most of whom were active and retired members of APERS or ATRS.
We hope you had an opportunity to be part of the discussion. If you could not make it and wish to see the APERS town hall presentation, it can be found on our website at http://www.apers.org/publications.
Article from 'APERSpective' newsletter for Active Members, Winter 2020 (January) titled "APERS and the Town Hall Meetings"