Letters to the Editor: October 30 – November 5, 2014
Treasurer & Finance Office Are Different Departments
I was shocked to read the Guest Commentary by Chris Johnson in the October 23-29 Falls Church News-Press. I would hope that one seeking an elected office would at least know what the position does.
Quite simply, the treasurer is responsible for maximizing the collection of revenues and serves as the custodian of all public monies. That is the extent of the authority of the office. The position of treasurer is a constitutional office, with the functions and authority of the office mandated by the state.
Financial reporting is the sole responsibility of the finance office. The finance director is a local, non-elected employee of the City and the finance office is a separate department from the treasurer’s office. Just as in most major corporations, basic internal control demands that those responsible for accounting for revenues are not the same individuals responsible for the collection of revenues.
Yes, I agree that the City of Falls Church finance office has room for improvement, but that in no respect can be, nor should be, under the influence of the treasurer.
City of F.C. Should Rethink Its Pension Plan
I think the Falls Church City government should rethink its pension plan, and perhaps shift (gradually) to a 401(k) plan or entirely self-directed investments. The notion that a city employee should sit back and depend on the city to provide a pension is not, in my opinion, a good idea and has not been for years.
The idea is not good for either the city or its employees. If the city blunders or simply does not have sufficient funds (the city’s property taxes are now the highest in the state), the city employee may be hurting during a long retirement. Twenty years or more is the common expectation for many persons not retired now.
“Safe” bonds, the traditional safe investment for retirement funds, have provided very little money for years. When will decent returns for “not really risky bonds” come back (the bond rating being the measure of risk)? Believe me, no one knows. The so-called experts on the 39 trillion bond market have been baffled by recent gyrations in the bond markets. In my opinion, the advertised 7 percent annual return for the current investment being considered by City Council shouts high risk or very high risk.
Then there are stocks. Millions of people in the country were made very afraid of the stock market, of course, by the enormous losses they sustained in the 2008 – early-2009 stock market crash. However, where people have traditionally made their retirement money is in stocks, not bonds. If the city chose a 401(k) plan, it would have to be carefully chosen There are thousands of them, and they can have hidden costs, which hurt their returns. Both 401(k) plans and self-directed investment would require that the city provide a share of the investment funds. The self-directed investing would require that the city employee find a financial planner or do it him/herself. In either case, the city should pay for basic education in retirement planning for its employees. In fact, such education should be provided not matter what the city’s approach to retirement funding is.
Not Much Open Space in ULI’s F.C. Rendering
I was surprised at the image and caption in last week’s News-Press about the proposed plan for the new city property. “Agora” as used by the Greeks commonly means an open place for assembly and discussion. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of open area in the rendering.
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