Good leaders don't surround themselves with sycophants.

Still, it's rare to see a top administrator publicly pooh-pooh his employer's plan as she's trying to rally support for it in the state capital.

But that's what happened last week in York City.

On April 8, Mayor Kim Bracey joined a group of Democratic mayors in Harrisburg to endorse state Rep. Seth Grove's bill to revamp municipal employee pensions, which she says are crushing cities, townships and boroughs across Pennsylvania.

Two days later, her business administrator, Michael O'Rourke, went on the record opposing the legislation, which he called unfair and "extreme."

For the record, House Bill 1581 includes provisions to:

•maintain existing pension benefits for current municipal employees, but shift new hires to a hybrid plan combining aspects of both defined benefit and defined contribution models.

Those new hires could retire at age 55 (instead of 50) after 25 years (instead of 20) and receive 42 percent (rather than 50 percent) of their final salaries.

•create revenue, through new employees' increased contributions, for municipalities to pay down old pension liabilities.

•eliminate the employee practice of "spiking" pensions by, for example, working a lot of overtime just before retirement so the year of final salary, upon which pensions are based, is higher.

Are the proposed changes less generous?


Advertisement

Of course.

That's because the current municipal pension plans are not sustainable, a fact even O'Rourke acknowledges.

State Auditor General Eugene DePasquale estimates Pennsylvania municipalities are facing $6.7 billion in unfunded pension liability.

York City's unfunded share is $50 million, even as it pays $6 million per year out toward pensions out of the city's $100 million budget — a cost that's expected to increase to more than $8 million next year, O'Rourke said.

Unless changes are made now, both Grove and DePasquale said, the costs eventually will be passed on to taxpayers.

So is Grove's legislation unfair?

Maybe, although that probably depends on whom one asks — taxpayers or municipal employees.

Bottom line: There's no easy fix to this.

But at least Bracey is trying to do something about it.

We're waiting to hear what O'Rourke's plan is.