COLA

Articles about the Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) that may be useful to Massachusetts retirees

A Week In Webster Mass

JULY 2000 - 
An Insurance Loss, A Cola Victory - Webster, a South-Central Massachusetts town with a population of
16,089, was the emotional scene of heavy Association activity this
spring.

Members of that community
asked for help with a ballot question, Question 1, which if voted
favorably at a May 1 town election would have required the town to pay
50% of its retirees health and life insurance premiums.

Webster’s
retirees have always paid the full cost of their premiums while
employees currently contribute 15%, with the town paying 85%. HMO
members pay 10%, the town 90%. The full cost of a retiree’s Medex plan,
for example, is $232.87 monthly.

Twice
previously the 50% insurance contribution had been on the ballot and
handily defeated. After an all-out effort by our Association, members
of the Webster Retirement Board, retirees of that town and their
supporters we would like to report a victory. But we can’t. The measure
went down to defeat 1,387 to 937 - only a slight gain over previous
years.

"Put this one in the loss
column," said Association President Ralph White who was not
discouraged. "We gave it our best shot and it just wasn’t winnable at
this time. We’ve always promised that we would give the retirees of
small towns the same support that we give retirees of the large systems
such as the state and teachers. Unfortunately, requiring a town to pick
up a portion of retirees’ insurance can only be accomplished as a
ballot question. We’ll have to try a different strategy next time."

White
praised the organizers of the Vote Yes on Question 1 drive. Town
Treasurer Dorothy Dabrowski, who is an elected member of the Webster
Retirement Board, and her assistant treasurer, Ellie Doros, headed the
drive at town hall. Board members June Perry and Lou Polletta, along
with retired police chief Paul Minarik, were also key activists.

"Dorothy
and her crew were well-organized," said White. There were newspaper
ads, phone banks and several mailings. Some towns are tough to crack
when the issue is required to be a ballot question rather than a town
meeting vote."

COLA Win Lifts Spirits

Spirits
of Webster’s retirees were somewhat lifted on May 8, just a week after
the insurance loss, when Town Meeting voted to accept the new COLA law,
allowing the town’s retirement board to pay full 3% COLAs.

Taking
no chances, another full-scale drive was put in motion during the week
leading up to Town Meeting. This time, dealing with voters attending an
open Town Meeting proved to be more compatible than a town-wide secret
ballot. The COLA vote passed with relative ease by a voice vote.

"Town
meetings can be tough and contentious, but dealing with reasonable
people face-to-face is much more opportunistic than a ballot. This was
proven in Webster," White noted. "Of course presenting your case before
a city council is even more desirable. However, town meetings are
considered by many to be the truest form of democracy, a fact we just
have to recognize."

New Cola Costs Now Local Responsibility

JULY 2000 -
State Payments Gave Systems Head Start - Since the inception of Prop 2 1/2 in 1981 pension, COLA payments
totaling $1.371 billion have been distributed by the state to local
retirement systems, greatly helping these systems to get a handle on
their unfunded pension liabilities.

Cola Eligibility: How It Works

JULY 2000 -
Retirees or survivors who were receiving a pension prior to July 1,
1999 are eligible for the July, 2000 COLA. Members who retired between
July 1, 1999 and June 30, 2000 will be eligible for the July 2001 COLA.

Budget Awaits Final Vote

JULY 2000 -
COLA Intact! - Keeping to their promise, the House and Senate have both included 3%
state and teacher retirees’ COLAs in their respective FY2001 state
budgets.

Welcome Back Hingham

MAY 2000 -
Hingham, which unsuccessfully attempted to enact special legislation
that would have excluded COLAs from fixed pensions, is petitioning for
retroactive acceptance of our COLA law.

D-Day For COLAs On Local Front

MAY 2000 -
D-Day for both retroactive and new 3% COLAs for local government
retirees is fast approaching, causing us to rush our May edition of the
Voice to press on April 7.

House, Senate Support 3% COLA

MAY 2000 -
Budget Contains Increase - Leaders of the House and Senate are doing what Governor Paul Cellucci
failed to do — include a 3% pension COLA for state and teacher retirees
in the FY 2001 state budget which takes effect July 1, 2000.

All Counties Aboard On 3% COLA

MARCH 2000 - 276 Towns Covered - As
we go to press, all county/regional retirement boards and their
governing advisory councils have accepted Chapter 127, our three
percent COLA legislation, for the fiscal year beginning last July and
are in the process of making retroactive payments to eligible members.

Pension Funds On A Roll

MARCH 2000 - Bodes Well For New COLAs - It
was another great year for the stateís pension fund. In closing out the
century with a pension fund investment earnings of 23% for the year
1999, the success of the Commonwealth's Pension Reserves Investment
(PRIT) Fund gives retirees high hopes for another three percent pension
COLA this coming July.

Looking At The Cola Through The Years

JANUARY 2000 - Original Law Passed In 1966 - As we close the door on the 20th Century, it is appropriate that we take a close look at the Commonwealth's pension cost-of-living (COLA) law and at the role that our Association has played in fostering COLAs since the inception of this law.

In fact, one might say that Chapter 32 (Pensions), Mass General Laws, has been our Association's "bible" over the past 32 years. And our "11th Commandment" during that period has been to uphold and perpetuate Section 102 (COLA) of Chapter 32.