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Posted By: Admin DreamingCode
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Posted By: Admin DreamingCode
City considers hike in retirees’ pensions
Source: Boston Globe

 As cities and states across the nation take aim at public employee pensions, Boston City Hall is engaged in a very different debate: how much to increase retirees’ checks.

Mayor Thomas M. Menino is proposing to boost the annual cost-of-living adjustment for most pensioners from $360 to $390, a $30 increase. City Council president Stephen J. Murphy is pushing for more, seeking a $90 increase over the current rate.

Other Massachusetts cities and towns have had similar debates. Last month in Brookline, voters rejected the advice of the Board of Selectmen and approved a pension increase akin to what Menino is proposing. In Hampden County last year, the retirement board that covers 18 towns enlarged the annual cost-of-living adjustment by $180.

In contrast, Maine lawmakers canceled all cost-of-living increases for three years for the roughly 37,000 beneficiaries in the state pension system. Last month, Chicago’s mayor, Rahm Emanuel, called for a pause on cost-of-living increases for a decade. Residents in San Diego voted overwhelmingly to eliminate pensions for newly hired city employees - except police officers - and institute a 401(k) program.

But Massachusetts county retirement boards covering almost 200 cities and towns have approved larger pension checks by increasing the yearly cost-of-living adjustments, according to Ralph White, president of Mass Retirees, which represents the Commonwealth’s retired public employees.

“At first blush, it does look opposite to the trend,’’ said Jean-Pierre Aubry, assistant director of state and local research at the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. “But Massachusetts differs from these other plans.’’

Unlike 70 percent of public sector workers nationally, municipal retirees in Massachusetts are not eligible for Social Security, which increases to keep up with inflation, Aubry said. But historically in Massachusetts, only the first $12,000 of a pension has been eligible for cost-of-living adjustments. That cap has kept increases comparatively low. In recent years, the increase has been 3 percent of $12,000, which added $360 a year to most retirees’ checks.

Public employees in Massachusetts contribute a share of each paycheck to the pension system, with the workers who make more than $30,000 putting in 11 percent. That is a much larger share than in many other states, which may explain the decision by some Massachusetts pension systems to increase payouts.

“It seems counterintuitive when you look at our brothers and sisters across the country,’’ said Joseph E. Connarton, executive director of the Public Employee Retirement Administration Commission.

“But our brothers and sisters nationally are not on the same page because our contributions have been higher and more consistent,’’ he said.

State lawmakers passed a slew of changes in recent years designed to stop pension abuses by some retirees. The moves pushed the minimum retirement age for some workers from 55 to 60; decreased some benefits; and adjusted the formula for pension payouts by basing them on employees’ last five years instead of three years.

Crucially, the changes also allowed cities and towns to increase the base for cost-of-living adjustments.

“It’s actually bringing it closer in line with the rest of the nation,’’ Aubry said. “The existing [cost-of-living adjustment] was very meager compared to others.’’

But Samuel R. Tyler, president of the Boston Municipal Research Bureau, argues that it is “not fiscally prudent’’ for the city to promise to increase pensions in a fragile economy. Critics question whether pension funds can generate enough long-term revenue, plus there is the pressure of rising retiree health care costs.

“We’re looking at the bigger picture,’’ Tyler said.

The Boston Retirement Board voted, 4-1, last month to raise the base figure used to calculate annual increases, shifting it from $12,000 to $13,000. That means most retirees would see $390 a year more in their benefits checks, up from the current $360. The move still needs approval by the City Council, which is supposed to take up the issue Wednesday.

If that proposal is approved, it would cost $2.5 million next year, according to an analysis by the city’s actuary. That would grow to $21.4 million by 2025.

Murphy’s plan would boost the base rate for pension calculations to $15,000. That translates into a total cost-of-living adjustment of $450, a $90 increase over the current rate. That proposal would cost $7.3 million next year, according to the analysis. By 2025, the cost would mushroom to $63 million.

Murphy pointed out that Boston has weathered the fiscal crisis better than other large cities and is facing its first “breathing room budget’’ in several years.

“We could afford it,’’ Murphy said last week in an interview. “You have people that are retired that have gotten no or very little increase over a number of years. The longer they live, the closer they are getting to the poverty level.’’

The city has roughly 14,400 retirees with an average annual pension of roughly $33,000, according to the Boston Retirement Board. But as salaries have increased, so have pensions. A study by the Municipal Research Bureau found that for the 450 people who retired in 2009, the average pension was $49,480.

Many private companies now offer 401(k)s for retirement, which shift risk to employees, who can lose their investments when the economy falters. A pension system keeps the risk with the government, which is obligated to keep cutting checks for retirees and their beneficiaries.

“It’s guaranteed, irrespective of the city’s finances or market condition,’’ Tyler said.

Jim Durkin, spokesman for Council 93 of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, rejected the suggestion that the city could not afford the $30 increase.

 “This is not a budget buster by anyone’s standards,’’ said Durkin, whose union includes roughly 2,000 city workers. “It is an extra copay on somebody’s prescription drug plan. Thirty dollars is more of a gesture toward these retirees.

“It’s a positive and a well-deserved gesture,’’ Durkin said. “It’s recognition that they are not getting rich by any means on a public employee pension.’’

Andrew Ryan can be reached at acryan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeandrewryan.

Posted By: Council 93
Every year AFSCME Council 93 members help prepare their communities for the holiday season. Starting in early October and right on through to New Year's Day AFSCME members are setting up generators, stringing lights, decorating, putting up trees, directing traffic and crowds, and working to make the holidays festive. Their hard work helps make the holiday season a happy and joyous time.

This year when you are admiring the holiday displays take a moment to remember the AFSCME Council 93 men and women who helped make that happen.

Wishing you a safe and happy holiday season!

Below is a list of communities where AFSCME Council 93 Members have helped set up holiday displays (if you would like to be added to this list please let us know!):

City of Springfield- Local 3065

Members of Local 3065 have been working since October 1st to string miles of lights to prepare Forest Park for Bright Nights 2017. https://www.brightnights.org/

City of Boston Locals 445, 296, and 804

Neighborhoods across Boston have trees, wreaths, lights, and decorations up for the holiday season.

This weekend is the Enchanted Trolley Tour to light the neighborhood trees! https://www.boston.gov/news/mayors-2017-enchanted-trolley-tour

Boston Common Tree Lighting was this Thursday and can be seen until New Years. https://www.boston.gov/calendar/2017-boston-common-tree-lighting

Town of Mansfield – Local 1702

The Light Department workers assisted with decoration across town. Decorating the North, South and East Commons as well as hanging wreaths and lights along S. Main Street, N. Main Street, West Street. They also decorated a large tree at the end of High Street at the intersection with N. Main Street.

City of New Bedford – Local 851


City of New Bedford workers placed wreaths, lights, and trees all across town. They even helped the library find, cut, and transport their tree. South Coast Today has the story highlighting the work that AFSCME members helped with http://www.southcoasttoday.com/news/20171128/new-bedford-finds-christmas-tree-after-challenging-search

Taunton Municipal Light Plant – TMLP – Local 1729


Local 1729 helped prepare for the 104th lighting on the Green Festival in Taunton. The lighting of the Green is on Saturday, Dec 2nd from 3 pm until 8 pm. Our members at TMLP will have a float in the Taunton Lights On Christmas Parade this year. https://www.taunton-ma.gov/sites/tauntonma/files/uploads/end_of_parade_directions.pdf

Town of West Bridgewater – Local 1700

They place the Christmas tree at Town Hall and decorate the tree, Town Hall and the gazebo that is in the parking lot of Town Hall. They decorate the trees in the center of Town and they also place wreaths at the library.

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AFSCME Council 93

AFSCME Council 93 represents more than 45,000 state, county and municipal employees in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont.

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