Atlanta Seeks Pension Diversification OK

December 1, 2008 ( - Atlanta officials have turned to state legislators for permission to boost their pension investments in real estate and international markets.

An Atlanta Business Chronicle news report said the city wants to invest a portion of its pension fund assets for general employees, police officers, and firefighters in real estate investment trusts (REITs) as well as in investments in international markets, including emerging market countries. Georgia law currently prohibits such investments by public employee retirement systems.

The city, which went through two rounds of layoffs last spring and now faces a budget shortfall of $50 million, included the pension investment item in its 2009 legislative agenda approved by the City Council in mid-November.

In mid-November, Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin joined with fellow mayors Michael Nutter of Philadelphia and Phil Gordon of Phoenix in demanding the federal government use some of the economic bailout money to help local governments pay their pension costs.

With their employees – including police officers, firefighters, and others depending on them for pensions – the city leaders asserted in a joint letter they were feeling the effects of the economic slowdown “most acutely and directly,” (See  Mayors to U.S. Treasury: We Need Pension Help from Bailout).

Also in November, New Jersey Governor Jon S. Corzine introduced a proposal to allow local governments to defer about half of their pension payments for three years to help municipalities avoid steep property-tax increases (See NJ Governor Proposes Local Government Pension Relief ).