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Costs set to soar for communities in state pension plan

August 10, 2011

Some pension costs for 11 of the communities in the state-managed Municipal Employees’ Retirement System (MERS) will more than double next year, according to figures distributed during a Rhode Island League of Cities and Towns meeting today at Warwick City Hall.

The figures show that MERS pension costs paid by communities will more than double, both in regard to municipal employees and police and/or fire employees. Costs for teachers are also rising, but not as sharply. 

For municipal employers, the percentage increases for those 11 communities range from a low of 102 percent for Lincoln and 108 percent for South Kingstown, to a high of 521 percent for North Smithfield and 678 percent for North Providence. (Costs will also increase for other RI communities, but by less than 100 percent.)

State Treasurer Gina Raimondo cited the figures — and the related drain on municipal and state resources — in exhorting a collection of mayors and town managers to support her push for pension reform. She says she plans to unveil a comprehensive pension plan for legislative consideration this fall. Raimondo adds that more municipal bankruptcies will result without decisive action:

If we don’t together pass pension reform in October when the General Assembly comes back, I guarantee you there will be more Central Falls. I can guarantee that because this is just math. Central Falls was predictable and avoidable.

Judging by their comments and questions to Raimondo, the municipal officials support her message.

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