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Friday, March 31, 2023

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Thom Reilly

Book Examines Pension Crisis

Former municipality executive Thom Reilly discusses budget issues facing local governments.
By Gina Jacobs

For five years, Thom Reilly served as county manager and CEO of Clark County, Nevada, (home to Las Vegas) providing executive oversight for both regional and municipal- type services for more than 1.8 million residents and 44 million tourists per year.

So it’s no wonder that Reilly, now director of San Diego State University’s School of Social Work, would have a unique insight on the diverse issues facing local governments. 

Reilly’s new book,Rethinking Public Sector Compensation: What Ever Happened to the Public Interest,” takes a close look at issues being raised in local elections nationwide: city budgets and retirement promises to public employees.

Public interest

“There is a real need to rethink how we manage and compensate public employees, and the debate needs to be guided by what is in the public interest,” Reilly said.

According to Reilly, large portions of local government budgets are being used to meet the retirement obligations cities owe to their employees, which put essential services and safety-net programs for citizens at risk.

In his book, Reilly finds the current system unsustainable and says reform must include more transparency, education and public engagement. He recommends a number of changes, including scaling back benefits to public sector pensions and offering other post-retirement options like moving public employees to a 401(k)-style plan or a hybrid model that is portable from employer to employer.

Recommendations for change

He also recommends eliminating components of the civil service system, such as the rigid job classifications and the over emphasis of time-served compensation, to a focus on rewarding performance, innovation and entrepreneurial thinking.

“I care about this issue because it’s not too late to address it," he said. "If we don’t, we are facing more bankruptcies and failed promises to public employees and cities and government officials are not going to be able to meet their responsibilities they have to citizens.”

More information

Learn more about “Rethinking Public Sector Compensation: What Ever Happened to the Public Interest?”.