Saint John pension reform report delayed again
Mel Norton says the task force report is now expected later in November
Saint John Mayor Mel Norton emerged from a private meeting with a provincial task force working on a fix for Saint John's pension crisis, saying the long-awaited report is taking far longer than expected.
City councillors met privately with members of the task force on Monday night. None of their discussion was public and only the mayor commented afterwards.
"We know that they have more work to do," Norton said on Monday night.
The pension task force has been at work since June, meeting with employee groups, unions and retirees.
The task force was initially expected to return to Saint John council in August with a solution that's affordable for taxpayers and also puts the pension plan on the road to recovery.
But a solution depends, in part, on wrestling concessions from city workers and perhaps pensioners. Saint John's pension deficit is now estimated to be $195 million.
The provincial task force came to Saint John shortly after Premier David Alward announced pension reforms in May.
Alward invited other public and private sector unions to adopt similar rules. New Brunswick is modelling its pension reform after the Dutch system.
Saint John’s mayor said after the meeting on Monday night the complicated pension mathematics are taking a long time for the task force.
"It's quite a lengthy process to do the testing that goes into building the models that they're talking about," he said.
Norton said the task force will return near the end of November with some dollar figures that should be close enough to allow council to complete its budget for 2013.
There's been an information blackout on the meetings of the task force with city employee groups, unions and retirees.
While a black out exists on the meetings, it has not stopped city politicians from talking about the city’s pension woes.
Coun. Bill Farren attempted to dissolve the pension board and appoint a new one during a council meeting last month.
The board was given its mandate by the provincial act that created the plan, but that law was repealed by the legislative assembly in June.
Robert Danay, a law professor at the University of New Brunswick, said in October the pension plan still exists but there is nothing that says the board still exists. Danay said the city should pass a bylaw giving the board powers to continue.