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COG: State should pay for retirees

For years, Franklin County towns have been on the hook for the retirement costs of Franklin Regional Council of Governments employees — costs that exceeded $380,000 in the last budget year.

But legislation now before the state House would move those 45 COG employees to the state retirement system, as most of the state’s 12 other regional planning agencies already are.

The county’s 26 towns are assessed $250,000 of the retirement costs, but the COG, a voluntary organization that charges those municipalities an assessment, also contributes more than $100,000, which comes out of its annual operating budget.

For the past three years, the COG has helped the towns reduce that part of their statutory assessment with about $45,000 in surplus funding, but it’s still an unfair burden to the entire county, COG Executive Director Linda Dunlavy testified before the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Public Service.

“To the best of our knowledge, 10 of 13 Massachusetts (regional planning agencies) are, and most always have been, members” of the state retirement system, Dunlavy testified. No member units of the state retirement system are required to pay a similar employer contribution, which are borne instead by the state. “Thus, Franklin County residents, among the poorest in Massachusetts, are not only paying FRCOG retirement costs directly through their local property tax, but are also paying for the retirement costs of all other RPAs and units of the (state system) through their income tax. We believe the residents of Franklin County are being charged inequitably.”

Dunlavy called on area towns to submit testimony in support of the legislation, which was filed by Rep. Stephen Kulik, D-Worthington. “This could save us a huge amount of money,” she said. “If we can get this legislation passed , the towns immediately save $250,000 a year. Wouldn’t that be cool?”

The county retirement system, which represents employees of all the towns, school districts and organizations like Franklin Regional Transit Authority and the county Solid Waste Management District, would remain intact, said Dunlavy.

The wording for the proposed change, which would result in a net cost to the state retirement system but a savings to the county retirement system, is based on 2006 legislation transferring the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission to the state retirement system.

You can reach Richie Davis at:
rdavis@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, Ext. 269

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