West Warwick municipal retirees and Town Council are united in support for General Treasurer Seth Magaziner's Healthy Local Pensions (HELP) Act, which will make it easier for cities and towns with locally administered pension plans to join the state run Municipal Employees' Retirement System (MERS).
The West Warwick Town Council yesterday unanimously passed a resolution calling for members of the General Assembly to adopt the proposal, while the West Warwick Public Employees Retirement Coalition voted to endorse the proposal during a meeting last week.
"The Council, Town Administrators, active employees and current retirees have demonstrated a shared concern over the [West Warwick Pension] plan's health and ability to remain solvent," reads the Council's resolution. "The General Treasurer has worked closely with municipal leaders, labor groups, retiree representatives, and pension experts in West Warwick and throughout Rhode Island to develop more flexible options for communities with critically funded pension plans to join the state's system."
While in recent years, the Town of West Warwick has worked to improve its financial position, the town's pension plan has an unfunded liability of more than $126 million.
"The West Warwick Public Employees Retirement Coalition has endorsed Treasurer Magaziner's proposal which would give communities, public employees and retirees more options to address the health and stability of their pension plans," said West Warwick Public Employees Retirement Coalition Chairman John O'Hare.
"Like West Warwick, many locally-managed municipal pension plans in Rhode Island are struggling, costing cities and towns millions of dollars and threatening the retirement security of hard-working municipal employees," said Treasurer Magaziner. "This proposal provides a new tool for those municipalities to get their pension plans back on track."
"Throughout this process, Treasurer Magaziner has taken the time to meet with stakeholders, answer our questions, and incorporate our feedback in a way that establishes a level of transparency that promotes mutual trust," added Chairman O'Hare.
More than 75 percent of the municipal pension plans in Rhode Island are already in the state-run MERS system where economies of scale and professional management offers stronger investment performance and lower costs than most smaller locally-managed plans can achieve on their own. Of the 34 remaining locally-administered plans, 19 are below 60 percent funded and 12 are below 40 percent funded.
The process by which municipal plans can enter MERS has become antiquated and unnecessarily rigid. The HELP Act will update the process to make it easier for plans to join MERS if they choose to do so.
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Contact: Evan England, Director of Communications, Office of the General Treasurer
(401) 439-2199 / firstname.lastname@example.org