As we navigate through these challenging times, the PFRS Trustee Board continues to maintain the posture of stabilizing and growing the fund. To do this, we must look at the four corners of our division. Being more independent and less reliant on other agencies gives us the flexibility to make sound decisions that are in the best interests of the PFRS.
During the past month, we have achieved several milestones and benchmarks. First, after hearing (and more importantly, listening to) the concerns over the cost-of-living allowance issue, we established a COLA working group a few months ago. This group (utilizing a thinktank approach) is devoted to reviewing and analyzing empirical data so that a model can be established in moving forward.
To date, the group continues to gather extensive research from compatible public retirement systems throughout the country. This will encapsulate examples of best practices that are both legally and administratively sound.
One such concept under review is the possible feasibility of a 13th check, which we have legal counsel researching. At the same time, we have our governmental affairs consultant, Multistate, taking a deep dive into how other retirement systems administer this type of process. Our executive director and chairman have put a lot of time and emphasis on getting resolution on COLA. The goal is to create a process that is held in perpetuity for all members to have.
Several actions were taken by the board this month. By resolution, we have adopted the procurement procedures for goods and services. As fiduciaries, we are bound by law to work within the scope of our responsibilities and follow statutory provisions promulgated by the state. This action allows us to conform to these standards and gives us a guide to responsible guardianship. Other resolutions were adopted to amend our asset allocation, benchmarking policy and rebalancing guidelines. These actions were taken after the investment committee, chaired by trustee James Kompany of Roselle Park Local 27, conducted an extensive review and created a recommendation strategy. These
actions will enhance our capabilities with the orderly operation of the fund.
Another resolution was adopted to hire outside for the purposes of handling the overabundance of Open Public Records Act (OPRA) requests. As defined by statute, all such requests need to be addressed completely and within a permissible time frame. As a state unit, our goal is complete transparency to the public and our members.
However, the constraints of handling these requests have overtaxed our staff, who have very important roles with the fund. Therefore, to stay in compliance with state law while creating efficiencies with our staff, the best course of action is to have these requests handled in a way that satisfies the needs. We should have this in place in the near future.
The audit committee met and discussed the end-of-the-year audit and financials. While timelines for this year’s report were more stringent, the committee took an active role to ensure the financial reports and findings were consistent and sufficiently presented so that the 2022 PFRS audit could be closed out. The board approved 102 special, nine service and two deferred pensions. The board also heard and voted on five ordinary and 13 accidental pension applications. The board renewed its request to the governor’s office to act on the appointed trustee positions. While the police, fire and retiree positions are elected among the members of the fund, the others go through a process of appointment and reappointment.
As you can see, during the past few months, much-needed, valuable intelligence and data were collected. This allowed us to draft intricate policies that would aid the overall workings of the fund tremendously. This was on top of monitoring over 30 pieces
of legislation that could possibly directly or indirectly affect the fund. Preparedness, response and executing sound judgment are the ways this board acts to ensure that our pensions are secure and available for generations to come.