It's a coincidence - but a fortunate one - that a special Cincinnati City Council committee meeting Thursday on ways to stabilize the city's troubled pension system will be held at the Duke Energy Convention Center.Creating a multi billion dollar Ponzi Scheme?
That's because the much larger meeting space, being used while the council chamber at City Hall is being restored this summer, may be needed to accommodate throngs of angry city retirees and employees - and perhaps even more Cincinnati residents upset over having to help pay for the solution to the very expensive problem.
Beyond the thorny question of how much more it will cost city workers, retirees, City Hall and taxpayers to remedy the retirement plan's woes, council also is expected to ponder other changes - among them, higher retirement ages, lower benefit ceilings and new funding formulas that could require more years of service for reduced payments.
The 10 a.m. meeting of council's Budget and Finance Committee essentially is a curtain-raiser for council on the retirement system dilemma, likely to be debated the rest of this year as members search for an answer that balances harsh fiscal realities against compelling political factors.
"There still are a lot of moving pieces to this," said Councilwoman Roxanne Qualls, who chairs the committee. Her objective, Qualls said, is to win council approval for a package of pension changes by the end of this year, before 2011 election-year considerations make decisive action on such a controversial issue much more problematic.
Much of Thursday's meeting will be devoted to a review of a 25-page report prepared this spring by a task force that examined the painful options that could help put the $2 billion Cincinnati Retirement System on solid financial ground.
Already facing a $1 billion long-term shortfall stemming from generous benefits, soaring health costs, catastrophic investment losses and insufficient city funding, the system could see that gap widen to $1.5 billion within five years unless substantive changes are made to benefits and how they are funded, the task force concluded.
Now that's "progressive"!