Local COLA Voting Season Opens

UPDATED APRIL 18, 2006 - Newton Board Leads The Way - Local government retirement boards have until July 1st to vote for a July 2006 3% COLA for their retirees and survivors.
Most
boards wait until sometime after the first of the year to take a vote
on the July 1st COLA, a few even waiting until June to vote.

However,
there are a small number of boards that traditionally vote prior to
Christmas, so that they can call it a Christmas present, of sorts, for
their members. Bristol County, Plymouth County, Newton and Medford are
among these boards. In fact, one of these four boards is always first
to vote.

FY07 COLA Local Board Votes
Adams (1/24/06)
Amesbury (1/26/06)
Andover (3/30/06)
Arlington (1/26/06)
Athol (2/28/06)
Attleboro (2/28/06)
Belmont (1/23/06)
Blue Hills (1/31/06)
Braintree (3/22/06)
Bristol Cty (12/29/05)
Cambridge (1/10/06)
Chelsea (1/26/06)
Chicopee (1/12/06)
Concord (2/24/06)
Dukes Cty (1/3/06)
Essex Cty (1/25/06)
Everett (1/26/06)
Fairhaven (1/23/06)
Fall River (1/25/06)
Fitchburg (1/24/06)
Framingham (3/30/06)
Gardner (3/28/06)
Gloucester (3/15/06)
Greenfield (3/28/06)
Hampshire Cty(1/18/06)
Haverhill (3/14/06)
Hingham (3/23/06)
Holyoke (1/13/06)
Hull (12/21/05)
Lawrence (1/26/06)
Leominster (3/22/06)
Lexington (1/31/06)
Lowell (2/16/06)
Lynn (3/28/06)
Malden (2/15/06)
Maynard (1/26/06)
Melrose (2/23/06)
Methuen 3/30/06
Middlesex Cty (1/12/06)
Milford (1/24/06)
Milton (2/23/06)
Montague (2/21/06)
Natick 3/30/06
New Bedford (3/23/06)
Newton (11/16/05)
Norfolk Cty (3/1/06)
Northbridge (3/15/06)
Northampton (1/10/06)
Norwood (1/10/06)
Peabody 4/12/06
Pittsfield (1/26/06)
Plymouth (1/24/06)
Plymouth Cty (12/29/05)
Reading (3/29/06)
Revere 3/8/06
Salem (1/26/06)
Shrewsbury (1/17/06)
Somerville (2/16/06)
Southbridge (2/22/06)
Stoneham (2/28/06)
Taunton (1/18/06)
W. Springfield (2/28/06)
Wakefield (2/16/06)
Waltham (1/26/06)
Watertown (1/20/06)
Webster (1/18/06)
Wellesley (1/25/06)
Westfield (2/16/06)
Weymouth (3/28/06)
Winchester 4/12/06
Winthrop (2/27/06)
Worcester (2/16/06)

In
'01 it was Plymouth County; in '02, Newton; in '03 Bristol County; in
'04 Medford; and back in first place once again in '05, Newton.
Remember, these votes are for the following July's COLA.

On
November 16, 2005, Newton voted 5-0 for a July 2006 3% COLA for its
members. The Newton Retirement Board members are police officer Paul
Bianchi and firefighter Fran Capello, the two elected members;
Comptroller David Wilkinson, the ex officio member; Mayor David Cohen's
appointee, Nunzio Piselli; and Assistant Attorney General Dick
Heidlage, who is voted to the Board by the first four members. Kelly
Byrne is the Board's director.

"The
Board wanted to vote as early as possible and eliminate any uncertainty
among our retirees and survivors," said Byrne. "Instead of calling it a
Christmas present, we called it a Thanksgiving present. Actually, it
was sort of fun being first again, being ahead of our old friend John
McLellan (Plymouth County Treasurer)."

Although
Boards are limited to 3% on their COLA vote, they can actually vote for
a lesser figure or no COLA, if their retirement system's "funding
schedule would be substantially impaired." A no COLA vote has never
been taken, but a few have voted for a lesser figure, the consumer
price index (CPI) figure, on rare occasions.

The
CPI, as used by Social Security, will be 4.1% in the January Social
Security checks. Our July '06 COLAs will only be the second time in
eight years that our 3% is less than the Social Security CPI figure.

Average Newton Pension Is $16,779

A
look at the Newton Retirement System's actuarial report for 2005 shows
that there are 1,282 retirees and beneficiaries of deceased members on
the system's payrolls. There are 837 superannuation retirees, 148
disability retirees and 297 beneficiaries. The average pension for all
members combined is $16,779. While this figure is not high when
compared to other greater Boston communities, it is slightly higher
than the average for all cities and towns in this state, which is about
$15,800.

Newton has 1,759
employees, all belonging to the Newton Retirement System. The average
salary for a Newton employee is $39,626. The average age of a Newton
employee is 45, with an average length of service of 11.4 years.

Newton's
pension fund has a market value of $238.8 million. Its annualized
return on investments since 1985 is 10.23%. In 2004, the fund earned
12.66%. In 2003, a banner market year, the fund earned 20%. While the
final numbers are not in for 2005, barring a miraculous last minute
market surge, Newton, like most pension funds, would be happy with a
return of 10%.

"Newton has always
been known for its retiree-friendly retirement board," commented
Association President Ralph White. "Back in 1997, Newton was one of the
first communities to accept Chapter 17 (new COLA law), when the Board
members went to bat before the Board of Aldermen and lobbied for a
successful vote. The Board members and staff are all very solid people,
whom our Association has always been able to count on."

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