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Finance Committee – Retirement Board and more

Black text is mostly objective, red text is mostly subjective in nature. These are notes from 2/4.

The minutes were approved. It was noted that we’re approximately $125,000 over budget for snow and ice removal.

John Bilafer, Joe Roselli, and Larry Greco came to discuss a series of articles related to retirement.

Article 39 – This article is to give cost of living increases (COLAs) to children of deceased retirees who had accidental death benefits. The town has been doing this for a number of years but was notified last year that it did not have the legal authority to do so. The total cost is approximately $1900. This was easy to support. It was very small money, a reasonable request, and basically administrative. The article was recommended unanimously.

Article 40 – This article would increase benefits to the estates of veterans who were disabled while working for the town who died before 2005. Joe Roselli spoke at length in favor of this article. He explained that he and others had worked for a long time to make this benefit available to all veterans (disabled pensioners had been excluded before 2005). There were many questions as the committee tried to unravel the proposal. Greco had an estimated cost of $100,000, but his numbers only included extending the benefit to living widow(er)s. The text of the article appeared to include all estates, not just living beneficiaries. This was a painful presentation. It was very disjointed. Roselli insisted on retelling parts of the story over and over, and they didn’t appear to relate to the issue at hand. Bilafer and Greco appeared to be uncomfortable with some of the claims Roselli was making and Greco corrected him more than once. None of them could answer what the scope of the article was – it wasn’t clear how many people this would apply to. Not least, Roselli was unable to make a convincing argument why this pension benefit should be made retroactive. I’m firmly opposed to the text as it stands. If the scope is corrected I’ll take another look, but I’m skeptical that the benefit should be applied rectroactivel. The committee unanimously voted a recommendation of no action.

Article 41 – Increase in benefits to 25-year retirees. It’s approved annually. This year is approximately $24,000. It was approved unanimously.

Article 42 – OPEB. This article would transfer the money saved thus far for the OPEB obligation to the account created by special legislation. The funds would be under the retirement board. There was question and discussion about whether it could be the treasurer instead. Bilafer believe that would require more special legislation. Alan Jones asked if the retirement board would agree to annual reporting to Town Meeting, and Bilafer said it would. Dean Carman noted that the teachers’ have money in OPEB, but no seat on the retirement board. Bilafer noted that employees will have to contribute to OPEB in some way, and that the state pension board, PRIT, doesn’t have the authority to invest OPEB funds. I believe I have been out-maneuvered! If I had my choice, this money would not be managed by the retirement board. I disagree with their strategies, policies, and investment choices. But this particular battle was won when the special legislation was written – and I didnt’ see it coming. Well, the OPEB issue is far from resolved. There will be other opportunities to direct the investments. The article was tabled, as was article 43.

Article 15 – Notification for Abutters. Jeanne Leary was there to explain why she wanted to increase the abutter notifications of town actions. She talked about the challenges she’s had learning about Symmes construction, Summer St. construction, and dog parks. The committee was strongly opposed to this. The text would require all sorts of notifications that would be very difficult to administer. I think the questions started a bit harshly, but by the end I think she was getting good, constructive criticism that she can use to modify the proposal. The article was tabled.

There was a discussion about data display using a projector.


Pingback from Dan Dunn’s Podium » Finance Committee – TAC, Extending Pensions II, and Budgets
Time: March 2, 2008, 5:24 pm

[…] Article 40, again – Joe Roselli came to speak again on the article after he heard that we voted against the proposal to award certain benefits to posthumously apply to certain pensioners.  He said that he was changing the wording to say “widows” rather than “estates.”  He repeated they history of this particular benefit and the many steps he and others had gone through to get the benefit.  He finished with a plea to approve the benefit “if you feel it in your heart” when you watch veterans march in parades. The presentation was, again, rambling.  The last time I asked him a question about how the scope of the change was limited, and he couldn’t answer.  In his presentation this time he talked about “people who died since 1995.”  So, I rephrased my question to ask him “How does this law treat people who died in 1994 differently from 1995?  Where is that spelled out.”  He couldn’t answer.  He talked quite a bit in response – he went all over the place talking about judges and findings and the people involved in the story.  But he was unable to answer this very direct question.  This is an easy vote when the scope is unclear. The committee did not change it’s mind, and the original recommendation of “no action” still stands. We moved on to budgets: […]

Pingback from Dan Dunn’s Podium » Why I’m Voting No Action on Article 27
Time: May 8, 2008, 11:40 pm

[…] Finance Committee had a hearing on this article in February (Read about it here; at the time it was called Article 15.)  The committee was strong opposed to […]

Pingback from Dan Dunn’s Podium » Town Meeting Session #7
Time: May 20, 2008, 4:10 am

[…] on disability pension, at a cost of more than $100,000. Al Tosti gave the Finance Committee’s recommendation of no action. He said that it was bad precedent to extend benefits retroactively. The moderator […]