Fairfax supervisors schedule hearing on pension reforms

herrity photoPat Herrity

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors today inched closer to making changes in its pension plans for new county hires, acting on a longtime argument by Supervisor Pat Herrity that Fairfax pension benefits are too generous. The board voted to authorize a public hearing on November 20, 2018 to consider proposed amendments to the ordinances for Fairfax County’s three retirement systems. The changes would be effective for new employees hired after June 30, 2019.

“Pension costs compete with our ability to provide quality services to our residents and to pay competitive salaries to hire the best and brightest teachers and employees,” Herrity said in an emailed statement. “We cannot continue to ask our residents to work after their retirement to pay significant increases in their taxes so our new County employees can retire as early as age 55 with a pension benefit that is much more generous than surrounding jurisdictions.”

The action has been a long time coming. In 2009, Herrity asked for a review of the county’s pension plans and in 2013, the board made some minor changes. Following additional advocacy for changes to address the plan’s unfunded liability and cost, the board began another review in late 2016.

The public hearing approved today will give residents the ability to weigh-in on the proposed changes for the first time.

In calling for reforms, Herrity has cited an Aon Hewitt report that found, Fairfax County offers pensions that are more generous than surrounding jurisdictions and “exceed the minimum retirement income needed to support the employee’s current lifestyle in retirement.”

The County also offers a benefit no surrounding jurisdiction offers — a county-paid social security payment as early as age 55. Pensions and pre-social security benefits have become even more expensive as people are living and working longer, Herrity noted. He has argued that pension costs are a leading driver in the 25% tax increase that the average Fairfax County homeowner has received over the last five years.

The county is getting closer to a point where there will be more persons receiving a pension than currently employed by the county, Herrity said.

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Truman Lewis
A former reporter and bureau chief, Truman Lewis has covered presidential campaigns, state politics and stories ranging from organized crime to environmental and consumer protection.