Hudson - Litchfield News 2 - July 15, 2011
How Will Pension Reform Impact Towns?
by Lynne Ober Just a week after Assistant Town Administrator
Mark Pearson’s hours were cut as a result of pension reform, towns across New Hampshire are wondering what other impacts will be felt. In February after Governor Lynch announced that he was cutting the 25-percent subsidy to towns and school districts that had been used to offset employer pension costs, the legislature worked to lessen that impact. Lynch’s proposal would have stopped towns and school districts from up-shifting their costs onto the state budget. The average firefighter annual pension for those who retired in 2010 was between $59,000 and $60,000, according to the New Hampshire Pension System, while state employees received annual pension payments thousands dollars less than firefighters, police officers, and school teachers. Although Lynch declined to elaborate on his reasoning for stopping the pension subsidy, experts believe that the high annual pension payments for town employees were part of the reason.
By the time the budget was finalized, there had been pension reform, including lowering the number of hours to an average of 32 per week
that a part-time employee drawing a state pension could work without needing to pay into the pension system.
Hudson selectmen quickly cut Pearson’s hours from 35 to 32 and his pay to $82,851 rather than pay the associated pension costs. Other towns are wrestling with the same issues. Pensions are funded by employee contributions,
employer contributions, and money earned on the contributions. They are not funded by the state. The pension system is a separate entity not under state control, but instead managed by a Board of Trustees.
Had the subsidy been completely cut for next
year, the taxpayers would have had to pay millions of additional dollars in property taxes, but by the time the budget was finalized, that impact had been covered. Employees would contribute between two and two and a half percent more toward their pensions; the interest rate was set for the coming two years and money was found to cover the gaping hole left by the proposal of no additional state subsidies.
As part of the reform, the Board of Trustees
that oversees the pension was also reformed. No longer would union members have a controlling
Hudson School District and Board of Selectmen Unite on Technology Capital Improvements
by Doug Robinson At the request of School Superintendent Randy Bell, School Board Chairman and Assistant Superintendent of Schools Mary Ellen Ormond attended the June 28 Board of Selectmen’s meeting “to discuss the joint Town/School District fiber-optic project.” Hudson IT Director Lisa Nute was also in attendance. Primary to the discussion was the Internet connections of the Recreation building at Oakwood Street through the H.O. Smith School, fire department, and town hall. Ormond addressed the BOS by stating that the District has been able to secure $6,000 from their ongoing IT project. These funds could be used by the town for the purpose of completing the fiber-optic wiring to the Recreation Center. Presently, the town cabling system is incompatible with the schools and the running of new fiber-optic cable would facilitate a “great value” to the community, commented Ormond. The Hudson School District has committed $80,000 of their 2012 budget to fund a “joint project with the Town and Fire Department to [run] fiber [optic cable] to Nottingham West and Hudson Memorial Middle School. According to Bell, funding for the project came about as “transferring $80,000 within the proposed budget to fund a fiber- optic cable project. That money includes furniture and a bathroom renovation.”
interest on the board. This had been a sticking point in the recent attempts to reform the pension system. New Hampshire’s pension fund currently has a $3.7 billion gap in funding—a gap that must be closed or a loss of pension payments will hit retirees.
Members of the outgoing Board of Trustees are
very dissatisfied with the change in the board and held a special meeting on Tuesday, June 28, to discuss the changes. It was the opinion of the board that towns and school districts should pay more toward employee pensions, so they passed a motion by Trustee Kate McGovern “that the Board instruct New Hampshire legal counsel, Andy Schulman, to file an immediate injunction seeking a review of the constitutionality of Section 188 of [House Bill] 2.” They wanted to lower the interest rate, which would, in effect, significantly raise the rates paid by employers; i.e., towns and school districts. The 7-5 vote found all the union members, who were also trustees, voting in favor. Trustees Dean Crombie, Justin Cutting, Sam Giarrusso, Germano Martins, Kate McGovern, Brian Morrissey, and Jill Rockey voted in favor of the motion. Trustees Senator Jeb Bradley, Representative Ken Hawkins,
Keith Hickey, Danny O’Brien, and State Treasurer Catherine Provencher were opposed. By voting to sue the government, the outgoing board fired their last shot to show displeasure at changing of the Board of Trustees, but if their suit is successful, the burden will fall onto the shoulders of property tax owners. Representative Ken Hawkins said that he felt that the suit would be dismissed. He pointed that out three times before the legislature had set the contribution rates and the Board of Trustees went along with the legislative proposal. “There is precedent for the recent rate setting,” he said. As part of the pension reform, there is a proposal for closing the $3.7 billion underfunded liability gap in the pension system over the next 30 years. Included is a method for protecting taxpayers as the state subsidy disappears. “We needed to think about all the people who pay taxes and not just the people who draw pensions,” said Hawkins, “and I think we worked out a system that is fair to employees, taxpayers, and employers.”
Editorial Can You Read Between the Lines?
Tuesday’s Hudson Selectmen’s meeting resolved the questions that were asked during last week’s paper’s vacation. “[Are] we [Hudson taxpayers] going to have to pay the State of New Hampshire to build the proposed Senior Center/Cable Center at Benson Park?”
Late in the meeting during the Selectmen’s Remarks and other business, Chairman Shawn Jasper casually stated that the results of the property evaluations were complete at the New Hampshire Department of Transportation (NHDOT) and the “Delta” was $76,000 on the “state’s side.” Let me step back just a little. Hudson “purchased” the Benson Property from the State of New Hampshire in December 2008 for $187,000. The deed to the property has many restrictions (what can be done and cannot be done). Building a building of any kind outside the “Historical District” of the property is prohibitive, explained Selectman Roger Coutu earlier in the week. Thus, if the town of Hudson wants to build outside the Historical District— which we do—then we have to swap land with the state on a fair and equal basis. Selectman Coutu simplified with the following: “If we build anywhere but on the Red Barn site (a barn that was located across from the office building, which burned after Play World closed many years ago), we have to have the State of New Hampshire approval and work out a compensation deal.”
When asked about the playground that the Recreation Department is erecting for approximately $87,000, the 911 Memorial that the newly formed committee has started with an estimate of $143,000, and the Dog Park for approximately $20,000, the answer was no, they are not considered buildings. We have to have permission to build them, but don’t have to swap land. The question is now that we have a value for the land swap for a Senior Center, can the Hudson seniors who have almost $300,000 to put into this project become part of the planning? They had been placed on hold waiting to be sure that the land swap would be approved. The other is whether or not the Board of Selectmen has the ability to get the Governor and Executive Council to waive the fee; then, planning and building can begin. Hopefully, we’ll provide our seniors with a long-deserved home. Benson Park, through volunteer efforts, is a gem in our community and with these other projects, it should become an even more integral part of our community.
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Hudson Republican Committee Ramping Up for Youth Outreach
submitted by Lucie Robbins, Hudson Republican Committee Committing to full use of modern
technology and social media, committee members and guests heard guest speaker Matt Haefner explain what it now takes to reach youthful voters. His presentation at the June 22 meeting focused on the particular advantages offered by Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube. He correlated social media usage with success at the ballot box, and produced statistics not to be ignored. The grandson of Hudson Legislator Bob Haefner, Matt enters his sophomore year this fall at the University of Montana. He summarized what he had accomplished for the conservative Republican cause at college, due to his expertise in using social media. Volunteering to help the Hudson Republican Committee establish Twitter and Facebook accounts, Matt will be helping to train members in managing them effectively for
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reaching young voters. He will be assisted by the Hudson Republican Committee’s newest member, Alvirne sophomore Alex Tucci. With aspirations of a military career, Alex will be attending a week-long Petty Officer Leadership Academy training program, sponsored by the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps. Plans for creating an exciting Republican presence at Old Home Days dominated the business meeting. The election of Andy Renzullo to the position of Vice Chairman completed the business meeting.
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