Pension mess unresolved as SRHS presents budget to Jackson Co. leaders

Pension mess unresolved as SRHS presents budget to Jackson Co. leaders
(Photo Source: WLOX News)

PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - Disappointed is how Singing River Health System retirees say they feel leaving Monday's Jackson County Board of Supervisors meeting.

For nearly two hours, SRHS CEO Kevin Holland and Interim Chief Financial Officer Sandy Albrecht presented the tentative budget for fiscal year 2018 to the board.

"I think it needs to be really looked at," said SRHS retiree Kitty Aguilar.

She and a handful of other retirees sat in on the presentation - many of them with their phones out recording.

"If you had a shift of one percent in your budget, would that make this budget underwater?" asked Supervisor Troy Ross.

It was one of the more heated moments during the meeting, as board members questioned the budget's accuracy when it comes to how the pension is factored in. Retiree Kitty Aguilar fears that uncertainty could put them in a similar situation as the current pension issue.

"When you project six percent ahead and you can't be assured that you're going to have that and then, later on, have to cut out what you need to be paying, I think it becomes a real problem."

"No matter how this decision comes out with the court are y'all committed to making this retirement thing making it right?" was a question posed by Supervisor Randy Bosarge.

"We are in full commitment as a priority on this budget decision and everything else, to ensure that that happens," was the response from one SRHS trustee.

The board is also pressuring SRHS trustees to have a public comment portion at their meetings. Trustees say they've scheduled one for September 12th at noon, but the retirees want them to go a step further.

"They narrowed it down to only with the trustees. And for public comment, it has to be with the full meeting so that everything gets into the minutes, otherwise there's no point," Aguilar said.

SRHS trustees say it's something they will consider. For the retirees, they're anxious for the whole thing to be resolved.

Attorneys representing Singing River Health System retirees recently requested a full panel of appeals court judges to hear the case regarding pension plans after three judges from the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals sent the class-action lawsuit over the plans back to a lower court.

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