, Salem, MA

September 3, 2013

Letter: Ideas to deal with public pension shortfall

The Salem News

---- — To the editor:

One main reason that the Essex Regional Retirement System received a favorable audit, as mentioned in Tuesday’s newspaper, is because of all the hard work that reporters of The Salem News did in exposing the excesses that existed within the board and its leadership. Thank you to The Salem News.

Now, how do the towns attack the public pension shortfall as explained in the Aug. 27 opinion column? Here are some ideas:

1. Change the 80 percent of an average of a person’s last five years’ salary to 70 percent, and set a maximum amount of $70,000, regardless of that person’s five-year annual income average.

2. Since we’re all in this together, people who are already retired should be subject to a well-thought-out revamped pension plan, one that leans heavily on those receiving a pension of more than $100,000. The Legislature should change the law to make it legal to do this.

3. Increase the amount that each present-day teacher contributes to their pension by small percentages that are linked to how much they are earning.

4. Change the fully funded year of 2040 to 2030 to force action now.

Sound drastic? If we act now, my younger teacher friends might still have a pension plan when they retire, or my retired peers and myself may continue to benefit from a pension. If we don’t, think of Greece and Detroit and Lawrence and Everett. People complain about the perks that our congressmen have, but the public pension plan here in Massachusetts is a perk that is soon to burst.

One more thought, and this is most important. For once in our lifetime, wouldn’t it be great if the leadership of all the teacher and municipal worker unions stepped up to the plate and initiated meaningful changes to the present-day pension plan for the benefit of all their members?

Jim Prato