SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

March 20, 2013

Our view: Tackling pensions in Manchester

Across the North Shore, across the state and across the nation, cities and towns continue to run up more unfunded pension liabilities and post-employment benefit costs for retired municipal employees.

While Massachusetts has a mandate that all communities eliminate those liabilities by 2040, far too many of them have long since adopted the idea of waiting until ... oh, perhaps 2039 ... to try to make a realistic dent in this potentially budget-crushing debt as we go from year to year.

Thankfully, that’s not the case in the town of Manchester, where a citizens’ group has called for yearly updates regarding the town’s pension and other retirement liabilities. Once again, resident William Shipman and others are calling for setting aside $100,000 in the town budget to build up an account to cover those costs.

That’s not just an idea Manchester residents should support, but one other local communities should actively follow.

Between contributions of more than $9 million to the Essex Regional Retirement Board, other post-employment benefits of nearly $17 million, and other pension and retirees’ health care costs, Manchester’s liability alone is being pegged at roughly $52 million. And setting aside $100,000 a year every year between now and 2040 will still only allow the town to cover some $2.7 million.

It’s a start, and it helps raise awareness of the continued need for more private sector pension and benefit reforms.

It is indeed a course that Manchester should take, and that others should see as an early model.

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