February 9th, 2012 at 11:01 am by Ted Nesi under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site
East Providence’s state-appointed budget commission voted this week to stop offering health insurance to members of its City Council as of Nov. 1, which is expected to save nearly $50,000 a year. Do most Rhode Island communities give their elected officials health benefits?
The answer is no – or at least it was as of July 2006, the last time the state published a survey of salary and fringe benefits offered to municipal elected officials. East Providence was one of nine cities and towns that offered health insurance to their local councilors at the time, the results showed.
Another of the nine was Central Falls, where receiver Robert Flanders ended health benefits for the City Council last June, shortly before the city filed for bankruptcy. The other seven that offered councilors health insurance in 2006 were Burrillville, East Greenwich, Johnston, Newport, Pawtucket, Providence and Warwick.
The generosity of the plans ranged from a “fully paid” family health insurance plan for Burrillville councilors to an annual cap on coverage of $2,700 a year in East Greenwich. All nine cities offered councilors dental coverage, too, and some of them also offered vision coverage, life insurance and retirement benefits.
January 26th, 2012 at 6:00 am by Ted Nesi under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site
Johnston Mayor Joseph Polisena, a member of the new local pension commission, suggested Wednesday that the huge cuts in state aid to cities and towns are a key reason for the plans’ financial troubles.
There’s no doubt the roughly 75% drop in local aid since 2007 has made it hard for cities and towns to balance their budgets. But there’s also no doubt the 36 locally run pension plans were in trouble well before that.
Don’t take my word for it – look at the auditor general’s reports.
The first report looked at the 36 plans back in July 2007 – with most of the cuts in aid still to come – and at that point they were only 45% funded. The second report, in March 2010, found them 43% funded. The newest report last September said they were 40% funded.
Those numbers are clearly going in the wrong direction, but the situation isn’t radically different now than it was in 2007.
Indeed, Polisena’s own city of Johnston is home to two of the 36 locally run pension plans, and they were each only 31% funded back in 2007. Today they are 27% and 28% funded, making them the ninth and 10th worst-funded out of all three dozen.
• Related: 13 local pension plans worse than RI’s; Cranston, Scituate lag (Dec. 5)
January 25th, 2012 at 5:57 pm by Ted Nesi under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site
The new local pension study commission got off to a so-so start at its first meeting Wednesday.
The 14-person panel – which counts among its members Providence Mayor Angel Taveras, Treasurer Gina Raimondo, Department of Administration Director Richard Licht, RIPEC chief John Simmons and Cranston Mayor Allan Fung – spent the bulk of the meeting getting an overview of how pensions work from Joe Newton, the state’s actuary.
But it soon became clear just how much divides the group, and just what a struggle it’s going to be to reach agreement on different solutions for 36 different pension plans in various states of duress.
The problem starts with the basic question of what the commission is even supposed to do. The law creating it defines its mission only in general terms. Fung said he was “concerned” that the panel might push local pension funds to adopt the 7.5% rate of return forecast the state is now using, which could balloon their liabilities.
December 5th, 2011 at 6:00 am by Ted Nesi under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site
By Ted Nesi
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) - More than half of Rhode Island’s 39 cities and towns have an independent pension plan that’s not part of the state-run system, but only one of those plans is funded above the 80% level experts say is adequate.
The 36 locally run plans spread across 24 cities and towns are the next big battleground in Rhode Island’s pension fight after they were largely excluded from the overhaul approved last month. A WPRI.com analysis of their financial health shows 13 of the 24 communities’ local plans are in more dire straits than the state retirement system was before the new law.
Unlike the dozens of pension plans in the state-run Municipal Employees Retirement System (MERS), which are required to be funded and are mostly in good shape, two-thirds of the independently managed so-called “non-MERS” pension plans are classified as “at risk” by the auditor general’s office.
The healthiest locally run pension plan is Jamestown’s police plan, which is 99% funded, followed by Middletown’s plan for most employees hired before 2001, which is 78% funded.
After Central Falls’ two plans, which are being restructured in bankruptcy, the worst-funded are in Cranston (16% funded), Scituate (23%), Coventry (25%), West Warwick (26%) and Johnston (27%).
September 2nd, 2011 at 1:04 pm by Ted Nesi under Nesi's Notes
Electricity continues to be the big headline in Rhode Island this week.
NextEra Energy Inc. may sell its 550-megawatt natural gas-fired power plant in Johnston, according to Dow Jones Newswires.
NextEra sold its stake in four gas-fired plants for $1.05 billion this week and ”is still exploring options” for the Johnson plant, “including a possible sale,” Dow Jones said.
The 550-meagwatt plant began operating in November 2002 and at full power can generate enough electricity for about 500,000 homes, according to NextEra.