COLA DOOR STILL OPEN

JANUARY 1999 -
Non-Accepting Systems Have Second Chance - With six months remaining in this fiscal year, only six communities
have yet to take advantage of our Association’s 1998 legislation
(Chapter 306) which will allow them to pay a 2.1% COLA retroactive to
this past July.

Originally, it was
required that Chapter 17, Acts of ‘97 (COLA law), be accepted by July
1, 1998 in order that a retirement board be allowed to pay a COLA to
its system’s retirees in FY‘99. But Chapter 306 has extended that date
to July, 1999.

Since July 1st,
three retirement boards – Brookline, North Attleboro and Beverly – have
accepted Chapter 17 and paid their retirees a COLA retroactive to July
1.

The Brookline and North
Attleboro Boards put the COLA to a vote of their respective town
meetings on September 8 and October 19. Both were successful. The
Beverly Retirement Board lobbied for, and won, a city council vote on
November 16.

One retirement board,
Saugus, put Chapter 17 before a fall town meeting, but the vote was for
a prospective COLA, effective July 1, 1999. A Saugus spring town
meeting had earlier rejected Chapter 17.

Last
spring, Hingham Town Meeting passed its own version of a COLA which
would place any Hingham COLA outside the Hingham Retirement System’s
pension funding schedule – a hybrid formula which Chapter 17 does not
allow. The Hingham plan failed to meet approval by the Legislature.

Hingham’s
neighbor, Hull, reportedly was waiting to see what happened to the
Hingham proposal at the State House. It is hoped that Hingham and Hull
will now take the Chapter 17 route prior to the end of this fiscal
year, but retroactive to last July.

Gardner’s
Retirement Board put Chapter 17 before their city council last June,
only to be rebuffed. There has been an ongoing dialogue between the
Board and Council, but several councilors feel they can create their
own COLA provision outside of Chapter 17. We would urge these
councilors to take a look at the Hingham experience and reconsider
their position.

Easthampton: Insurance 1st Priority

The two remaining non-COLA Boards, Chelsea and Easthampton, have not sought approval by their respective city and town councils.

Easthampton
recently went from a selectmen/town meeting form of government to a
city council/mayor government. Members of the Easthampton Retirement
Board say that although they will be seeking COLA approval, acceptance
of a statute that will allow the city to contribute 50% toward
retirees’ health insurance premiums is their first priority at this
time.

It will be remembered that
Easthampton, which makes no contribution toward retirees’ insurance,
has voted down several ballot attempts for a 50% contribution. Under
its new form of government, the statute can be accepted by the council.
“We want this badly,” said Easthampton Retirement Board member Jim
Dunham, a retired firefighter.

“Regardless
what transpires with these remaining retirement systems, it is a fact
that 100 of our 106 retirement systems have accepted Chapter 17 and are
paying a COLA this year,” said Association President Ralph White.

“This
flies in the face of those who attempted to kill Chapter 17 in 1997, by
saying that it would be fiscal disaster for the cities and towns and
that few would approve of its acceptance.

“Not
only has Chapter 17 been almost universally accepted, but we find that
it can be even further improved by legislation which we are filing this
year.”

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