Today I officially signed the documents required for the Diocese of St. Petersburg to begin administering its own pension plan tomorrow. After forty years partnering with the Archdiocese of Miami and twenty-five with the Diocese of Venice, Miami chose to leave the pension plan and begin its own effective July 1, 2009. Without consultation with the Diocese of St Petersburg, the Diocese of Venice chose to continue in partnership with the Archdiocese of Miami with some modifications in governance sought by the latter and granted by the former. If you are an employee of the Diocese or any of its institutions, you were made aware of the changes in plan benefits which were a result of the actions of the Pension Plan Board of Trustees in March which I did not wish to cede on your behalf. At the time I had no idea that following the statutes and by-laws of the combined pension plan, I would occasion a withdrawal by one (and later two) of its members. Acknowledging that they announced their intention to withdraw, the two other dioceses approached us and asked if we would be willing in the end to be the party that ultimately withdrew, saving them IRS filing fees, etc. We agreed.
In the intervening months, with the assistance of very wise pension counsel and a lot of hard work by our trustees and particularly Paul Ward, a very fair and amicable division of the assets will occur tomorrow, July 1, 2009. What we are receiving is ample enough to meet our actuarial needs for the future for our present employees and no one should notice a difference as the plan administration remains the same, the bank that pays the monthly pension benefits remains the same, the St. Petersburg Trustees remain the same and what you are presently receiving or expect to receive upon retirement and/or eligibility remains the same. The health of any defined benefit pension plan is directly dependent on the timely and complete payment of premiums by the employing institutions (the parishes, schools, charities, etc.) into the fund. The combined health/welfare and pension payments for our employees now totals approximately thirty-five percent of salary, It is a burden and becomes more so when offertory or tuition collection lessens for whatever reasons.
You can rest assured that what you have worked long and hard for and which has been one of the “richer” benefits of employment by the Church remains the same, tomorrow, with the new Diocese of St. Petersburg Pension Plan as it did in the old plan ending today. I conclude this reflection with special thanks on the part of all of us to Monsignor Anton Dechering, Monsignor Robert Gibbons, Deacon William Mahood, Laura Brock and Paul A. Ward for their years of service to us through their participation on the Pension Plan Board and also to the long-time members of the Trustees from Miami and Venice who shepherded this plan to its present state of good health. In a special way I wish to acknowledge Monsignor Noel Fogarty, long-time chair of the Pension Plan Board of Trustees, who protected the plan as it was one of his own “off-spring.” Rest assured, they did well.