County hears pension report

CRYSTAL FALLS—The regular monthly meeting of the Iron County Board of Commissioners on May 8 focused heavily on the health of the county’s pension system, as well as other financial matters and a few smaller pieces of business.
    The bulk of the meeting time was devoted to a presentation, followed by a question and answer period, delivered by Terra Langham of the Municipal Employees’ Retirement System. In operation for over 70 years, MERS is a nonprofit organization that manages the retirement programs of municipalities across the state. During Langham’s presentation, it was revealed that the county’s pension program was over 75 percent funded, healthy compared to much of the rest of the U.P., Langham said.
    The remaining 25 percent gap between Iron County’s projected pension obligations and the amount of money available now to pay them, totals $1.8 million. This gap includes the pension obligations to Courthouse and Iron County Medical Care Facility employees but not the Road Commission, as those employees are under an arrangement that is separate from the county itself.
    During questions and answers, Commissioner Jim Brennan expressed concern that if the program’s fortunes began to falter, the remaining 25 percent would be difficult to cover. He furthermore stated that he was skeptical of MERS’ ability to maintain its current level of performance.
    Langham said that the organization’s CFO, Leon Hank, would be at the upcoming U.P. Association of County Commissioners conference and would be able to fully address his concerns during the event. Brennan stated he would discuss the matter with Hank at that time.

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