As we entered our January board meeting, one couldn’t help but think of the 36 prior meetings. This month’s meeting started the same way as it did some two years ago, on a conference call, due to a recent surge in COVID cases.
However, since that cold February morning back in 2019, we embarked on a mission with the sole goal of protecting our pension system. Regardless of pandemics or questionable markets, we in the field of public safety adapt to and overcome all obstacles. Unlike the other systems, we have greater control on the planning and management. By now, I hope the board’s accomplishments and results speak for themselves. Nevertheless, there is so much more to be done as we continue to grow in this dynamic and ever-changing financial environment.
The PFRS board of trustees has achieved a number of significant milestones during the past month. The MOU between the PFRS and the State Treasurer/Division of Investments is in form to start discussing the steps to implement the separation of our system’s assets. This will be done through a separate custodial agreement with the State of New Jersey’s custodial bank. Once that occurs, and the roles and responsibilities between the PFRS, its investment staff, and the Division of Investments are ironed out in the MOU, the Board will be able to start making separate investments for the sole benefit of the system.
Additionally, the 180-day to 90-day break in service after retirement rule has been presented to the Office of Administrative Law for public comment. As previously discussed, this was a priority of NJSPBA President Pat Colligan. The proposal was sent to the OAL on Nov. 15, 2021, with the 60-day public comment period ending on Jan. 14, 2022. The rule substitutes a 90-day break in service when retuning to employment with one’s existing employer. The rule shortens the cooling off period from 180 days to 90 days. The current rule requiring a 30-day break in service is preserved for employees returning to work after retirement, but with a different employer. As of Jan. 10, no public comments have been made. If no comments are made, the rule proposal will be presented to the Board in February 2022 for final adoption, and the final publication thereafter.
Regadring our members, we approved 172 special retirements this month. Regarding service pensions (20 and out), we processed 17 applications. A little more than half were under the Chapter 52 program. We are not seeing a mass exodus in our profession, and we feel these numbers will continue to stabilize. Keeping the numbers within normal range will be the catalyst of securing permanence. Following this, we reviewed three ordinary disabilities and 16 accidental disability claims. Finally, the Board has continued to process claims for benefits, having approved a number of World Trade Center (Chapter 157) and COVID-19 related applications.
With a new legislative session beginning, I suspect many of the former bills we were tracking in the previous session will be refiled. Many of these can potentially have an effect on our system. We’ll continue to keep a close eye on all legislation that can affect us (for good or ill) and maintain an open dialog with our Assembly and Senate leadership.