By Grady Judd and David Shoar
Last week, the Florida State Board of Administration released an encouraging financial update on Florida’s retirement plan for Florida deputies, law enforcement and correctional professionals, as well as other state workers. Ash Williams, executive director of the Board of Administration, told the Florida Cabinet that the pension plan stands at $132 billion, nearly $10 billion higher than the previous fiscal year began. He attributed this outstanding result to “prudent diversification of assets, cost controls and excellent fund manager selection.”
This is great news for the residents of Florida. This reaffirms that Florida’s retirement plan for public servants continues to be one the best managed and funded plans in the nation.
Of course, it is especially good news for our law enforcement officers and other public safety servants who serve the public every day knowing their service could result in them making the ultimate sacrifice.
As sheriffs, it is our duty and commitment to keep safe the Floridians and visitors we serve, as well as those who work in our organizations. It is good public policy to ensure that our pension system remains well-funded with solid investments so that the financial welfare of these public servants in retirement is fair and reasonable.
The daily risks that deputies and other law enforcement officers face are significant; a well-funded retirement is one benefit that our state must provide to balance some of those risks for law enforcement and their families.
Since the beginning of the economic downturn, we have all become aware of how many public pensions throughout the nation have become unsustainable, and we must remain vigilant and fiscally responsible so that our pension plan will continue to serve as a role model for generations to come.
We will continue to collaborate with the Florida Legislature and other chief executives across the spectrum of public service to strengthen our pension plan to be able to respond to this challenging and unique economic environment.
In light of the current 13 percent return on our pension fund investments, while affording our employees the option of participating in a “defined-benefit” plan or the “investment” plan, your sheriffs want to take this opportunity to express our appreciation for continued effective and prudent management of these taxpayer dollars by the Florida State Board of Administration.
We want to thank the legislative leaders who continue to support their public servants by providing and protecting our pension plan and for continuing to seek ways to make its fiscal health even better.
There has been a long history of providing our military members and our public service employees with a fair and viable pension for their service, and the wisdom of this policy has stood the test of time. Fortunately, we live in a state whose leaders understand public pensions only can exist if they are managed effectively and do not become an unsustainable burden on our residents.
This latest Florida State Board of Administration report clearly demonstrates the solid foundation of Florida’s retirement system. With continued sound investments, proper asset management and adequate funding, Florida’s retirement system will continue to shine as an example to others.
All of our goals remain the same: to hold the great state of Florida up as a model, in every aspect — from safe communities with low taxes and beautiful natural resources to a balanced budget. This is the Florida we love and support.
Grady Judd is sheriff of Polk County and president of the Florida Sheriffs Association, and David Shoar is sheriff of St. Johns County and vice-president of the FSA.
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