Town officials: Moving police into MERS pension system not likely

Town officials: Moving police into MERS pension system not likely

But union chief says it could happen

NORTH PROVIDENCE - Town officials say that in an ideal world, members of the North Providence Police pension plan would all be transferred over to the state's Municipal Employees' Retirement System (MERS). But this isn't an ideal world, they say, and they don't expect it to happen.

As part of ongoing negotiations with the police union, Mayor Charles Lombardi says his administration proposed rolling the independent police pension fund into the state pension system, but he claims the idea was rejected.

"Ideally we would like to see all of our employees in the MERS system," said Lombardi, noting that police are the last ones still with an independent pension system.

But David Drezek, president of the North Providence Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 13, said Monday that the Lombardi administration made no such proposal as part of any negotiations with the police union, and the mayor is wrong that the union rejected the idea.

"We are open to any suggestion to save the community money," said Drezek. "But when you negotiate, you have to negotiate in good faith."

The police pension fund now stands at a 95 percent funding level thanks to the efforts of the men and women of his department to land the department $60 million in a settlement with Google last year, said Drezek. But just because the fund is now fully funded does not automatically take the MERS idea off the table, he said.

Placing police pensioners in the state system could reduce costs and avoid any future problems brought on by potential mismanagement or increased benefits, according to Lombardi and Finance Director Justin Cambio.

"They (state officials) make sure you fund it," said Cambio.

The town would be bound by the state rules on public safety pensions, he said, with pensioners losing the cost of living adjustments they receive now and being required to retire at an older age.

Lombardi and Cambio said that any change must be made "bilaterally" through negotiations between the two parties and not "unilaterally." Members of the police pension system would be facing a later retirement age and a loss of cost of living increases if transferred into the MERS system, said Cambio.

North Providence officials do not have the leverage many other communities have, said Cambio. Now that the police pension has been fixed with a fresh infusion of $20.6 million from the Google winnings, town officials don't have the option of telling local pensioners that "at least you'll get your pension and not end up in a Central Falls situation."

Unlike Providence, where he previously served in the finance department, North Providence pensioners no longer face questions over whether the money will be there for them, said Cambio, eliminating a key motivator in making it happen.

Given that the police pension plan is now flush with cash, said Cambio, he understands why pensioners would be reluctant to go into the MERS system.

Though the possibility is there that the police pension fund could again plummet through future mismanagement and poor economic conditions, said Lombardi, police know that it won't happen on his watch, as his administration continues to come through with the full annual required contribution of $800,000 into the fund each year. When the pension fund was down close to a 45 percent funding level, town officials were putting $1.6 million into the fund, said Lombardi.

Adding further to the security of the fund, said Lombardi, it is now being managed by Wells Fargo, a company that's doing a much better job with it than a previous one.

The North Providence Police pension system has 138 participants, according to Cambio. Benefits paid out are about $800,000 a year, or more than $66,000 a month, he said. The estimated annual cost of managing the fund is $160,000, said Cambio.

Comments

If the town can save money by having the police moved to MERS then that is where they should go. Let's cut through this bull about the police have to be treated differently than the rest of the town. This is the problem with fiefdoms being built to take care of their own at the sacrifice of the rest of the town's taxpayers.
The Mayor is right again, in trying to get our expenses as low as possible.
Let's get a public forum on the police contracts and see how many eyes will pop out of the heads of taxpayers when they see the bloat in these contacts. Come on Mr. Drezek, president of the FOP and Mr. Lombardi, Mayor of NP, let's open up these negotiations so we the taxpayers can really see what is going on.

Bottom line is the MERS system will force the police to retire at a later age. The average age of the North Providence police officer would rise from 35 to 45. Not an ideal situation when chasing down 19-25 year olds. The potential increase in on the job injuries could have a devastating effect on the town budget. The MERS system would also remove the cost of living increases that these dedicated “life-time” employees have worked so hard to accomplish. How can we in all good conscience do this to our police force? If someone attempted to modify your pension in the private sector, the lawsuits would be immediate and endless.

Again Mr. Garnold you are inept to pension systems. There would be an extensive penalty if the town moved out of their current pension to the MEARS system. Why would the police want to get into a system that is underfunded ? The employees contribution would also increase. The Towns contribution may also increase. This would cost you the taxpayer more money. Obviously you do not like unions or Police and Fire. Hopefully you will not have to use them anytime soon. There is no bloat in these contracts as you claim. If you keep listening to the Mayor promote himself on a daily basis I guess you become brainwashed like yourself. Maybe you should ask the Mayor what he is going to do with the extra $800k he will have each year now that he does not have to make up for the underfunded police pension. One that he didn't fully fund a few years. People like you need to live in Foster where the fire dept. is volunteers and the police are few. So when you need a rescue they will respond a couple of days later and when you are a victim of a crime all 3 police officers will try and solve the crime. It's reality for municipal employees, they get raises at some point. Who pays for it ? Taxpayers you and me.

Switching to The Mers system is beneficial to pensions that are in bad shape. But let's face it, the NP police pension is probably in better shape that any other nationwide. So why change and force people to stay longer. What's the benefit to the town? 60 year old cops on the street! I'm not liking the thought of that. And how could anyone say to these officers that after 10, 15, or 20 years of making their contributions and the give and take of years or decades of negotiations, that since the Town mismanaged money (including underfunding the pension fund ) that they dnon't feel they need to live up to their obligations. And how can we put the blame of the Town's financial woes on the shoulders of the Police union. Let's get one fact straight: that pension was made solvent by money won in a lawsuit on a case won by the police department not the Mayor. The only saving grace was his friendship with Senator Whitehouse to push this through. And now that the police essentially secured their own pension, we are going to give them a lessor pension than what they had to negotiate with the town for over decades of collective bargaining. And yes it's called bargaining for a reason. I'm sure the union didn't get their current contract by walking in and saying this is what we want. That's it. Sign this contract. I'm sure the town got certain things they wanted in order to get a contract signed. But it sounds like this the Mayor is not content with the nearly $1,000,000 in payments the town saves since the police secured their own pension. And let me say that again...secured their own pension. Give them credit where it is due and negotiate in good faith . My taxes didn't go up because of the police pension. They went up because of the towns mismanagement of money. .from what I've been reading , the police have made many concessions over several years to aid in the towns recovery from financial problems. So the mayor thanks them by wanting to give them a worse pension than they've earned and secured. Wow, really?!!!

Show me a police office who retires at 45 yrs old that doesn't start a new career. The pension can wait a few extra yrs. before they start to collect it.

Regardless of how old a person is at the end of the agreed upon eligible retirement age, how can you say he's not entitled to it? So all the collective bargaining over all those years should just be thrown away because he entered into a career young enough to retire at an relatively young age, ? How about a kid who joins the military at 20. Are you saying he shouldn't Be able to leave with his promised pension after serving for 20 years? I'm not saying I'm completely against having to work longer but believe me this is not a job that you want being held by older people who are more prone to injuries and accidents. And by keeping older people in these positions you're preventing the younger people from getting hired. To change the rules in the middle of the game is just not right. Because what ever was given to police officers through contract negotiations also cost them something in return. So my question wound be : do you want to give back whatever that bargaining chip was for the town to get what they wanted ? Lets face it, over the years the cities and towns needed certain things to make a contract work for them. I'm sure they had to give in order to get as well. That's why it's called a negotiation. So my point is that it's not fair for either side to just say we don't like this deal anymore so we want to change it. I'm sure there is room for changes but those changes need to be negotiated.