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Pension Funds

Task force recommends closing Milwaukee County Employees, reducing COLA

Milwaukee County Employees' Retirement System could be closed and its cost-of-living adjustment reduced based on a retirement sustainability task force's recommendations.

The retirement sustainability task force — formed in 2017 and consisting of Chris Abele, county executive; Robert J. Conlin, secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Employee Trust Funds; and 16 others — voted at its Aug. 28 meeting to recommend to Mr. Abele and the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors to "analyze options for reducing the COLA" and "pursue an approach" to close the $1.8 billion pension fund to new employees and move new hires to the $100.3 billion Wisconsin Retirement System, Madison.

The task force was originally formed to examine a potential transition to the Wisconsin Retirement System and because the county's annual contribution to the pension fund is expected to exceed $100 million this year, up from $27.9 million in 2006, according to task force materials on the county's website.

The pension fund as of Jan. 1, 2017, had a funding ratio of 77%, with $1.74 billion in assets and $2.26 billion in liabilities. The current COLA formula and the potential timeline for the county board of supervisors approval of the recommendations could not be immediately learned.

"I'm grateful for the service of every member of the retirement sustainability task force in helping guide our options going forward," Mr. Abele said in a statement emailed by county spokeswoman Karina Henderson. "My goal has always been to assure current and future retirees that we'll be able to keep our promises when it comes to their pension. This means having a system that is simplified, well-governed and reflects best practices. I'm looking forward to seeing their final report and working with the county board of supervisors in discussing their recommendations."