Retired Metro Nashville employees’ benefits are in jeopardy, one PAC says, even as Mayor Megan Barry’s supporters have no trouble raising funds from the business community to try to persuade voters to pay $9 billion for a transit system.
NoTax4Tracks says in a press release that Metro Nashville has a health insurance funding shortfall for retirees to the tune of nearly $3 billion.
“The good news is you are probably going to get whatever is in your pension. That part of the retirement plan is fairly well funded. The bad news is that health insurance coverage you were promised …. maybe not so much.”
Health insurance, a part of “other post employment benefits (OPEB), are funded at 0 percent, the press release says, citing an October 2017 letter from Metro’s director of finance, Talia Lomax-O’dneal.
The shortfall is nothing new. A Jan. 26, 2015 story from the Tennessean says the issue dates to 2002. Many of the retirement benefits are paid from the city’s budget and costs grew from 13 percent of the total property tax revenue to 25 percent in 2015. The story cites a report from The Pew Charitable Trusts that says the health care plan faces a long-term shortfall of at least $2.4 billion if the city fails to take action.
“And, get this, nothing is being set aside to pay for this debt,” the NoTax4Tracks press release says.” Zero. For promises made … to real people who worked hard and were told by the city they would get what was promised.
Meanwhile, the Citizens for Greater Mobility PAC, which supports the transit plan, submitted a year-end disclosure form to the state saying the group raised $1.3 million, the Tennessean reports. The PAC funds the Transit for Nashville Coalition and has ties to the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce.
HCA, Ingram Industries, Greater Nashville Realtors, law firm Bass, Berry & Sims, Bridgestone Americas, H.G. Hill Realty, and the chamber accounted for $500,000 in donations collectively, the newspaper reports. Ingram industries is the family business of Martha Ingram and her sons, including John Ingram, who recently received the city’s help to land the new soccer franchise.
“We’re pretty excited about the broad community support that we’ve seen in Davidson County for this transit plan,” the PAC’s chairman, Jim Schmitz, Middle Tennessee Area President of Regions Bank, told the Tennessean. “It’s apparent by the contributions so far. It’s clear that the business community believes that transit is an important issue for employees and for customers, and for the economic future of the area.”
Schmitz mentioned the transit plan being important for employees. Perhaps he did not consider the effect on retired Metro Nashville employees.
As NoTax4Tracks said in its press release, “Shouldn’t Metro make good on promises already made … before making a whole big new one?”