Jackson Co. Supervisors review SRHS proposal to fund troubled pe - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Jackson Co. Supervisors review SRHS proposal to fund troubled pension plan

(Photo source: WLOX) (Photo source: WLOX)
JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) -

An offer is now on the table to fund the Singing River Health System's underfunded pension plan. News of the proposal was revealed Monday during the Jackson County Board of Supervisors meeting. Supervisors are not lending their support to the health system's plan just yet.

Betty Phelps worked at the health system for more than 20 years. Now, she and many other retirees are fighting to keep the retirement checks coming after their former employer stopped contributing its portion to their pension in 2009. The fund is now underfunded by at least $150 million.

“I am looking at the results it will mean for me. I was promised a retirement for my lifetime,” said Phelps.

At Monday's supervisors meeting, the board revealed that health system officials had come up with a proposal to fund the troubled retirement plan. The reported offer, up to 90 percent. Phelps said she is not impressed.

“I am not a big fish in this mess. I am a little person. I don't get a lot of money anyway, so what I want is 100 percent of my retirement like I have been getting it," said Phelps.

Supervisors would not say if they favored the proposal, but did express to the crowd they want to review it more instead of rushing to give a recommendation.

“We need to make sure it is sustainable. It is easy to say we are going to fund something at 95 percent or 100 percent or 80 percent, but is it sustainable for 20 years, 30 years? We don't want people in 15 years to go through the same heartache you all are going through today,” Supervisor Troy Ross said.

Supervisor John McKay agrees. He said whenever the final decision is made, the success of the pension plan will depend on who is keeping a close eye on it.

“No matter what plan, our plan or their plan, is adopted, one thing that is proven throughout this whole thing is it better be monitored and it needs upkeep on a yearly or biyearly basis, so someone is watching the income and the expenses. It has to be watched,” said McKay.

SRHS Director of Communications Richard Lucas had this response about the pension proposal:

After a great deal of work done by Singing River Health System and its Board of Trustees, the Health System Board of Trustees has developed a set of concepts designed to bring stability to the pension plan situation. We have shared this proposed plan with the Board of Supervisors, and anticipate moving ahead shortly. The proposal is subject to court approval, and we will be sending our concepts to the courts and the appointed mediator for their input. It is time for us to focus on viable, long term solutions for the retirement plan participants and the future of Singing River Health System.

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