Another public pension outrage

In the midst of the worst fiscal crisis we’ve seen in many years, an obscure North Shore agency has voted to lower the retirement age for police and fire dispatchers from 65 to 60. The Salem News’ Chris Cassidy reports:

Thanks to a subtle change in job title, some North Shore emergency dispatchers will be able to retire five years early under new rules approved by the Essex Regional Retirement Board.

By reclassifying police and fire dispatchers as “signal operators,” the board recently allowed the group to retire with maximum benefits at age 60.

The change affects Boxford, Hamilton, Ipswich, Topsfield and Wenham. Naturally, defenders of this outrage say the move was made in order to rectify an injustice. Naturally, the extra cost to taxpayers is said to be negligible. Naturally, we are told that dispatchers work under an incredible amount of stress.

Guess what? I’m feeling pretty stressed right now. In what rational universe are new benefits approved in the midst of a budget meltdown — a meltdown that taxpayers are going to have to fund? The arrogance of this money grab boggles the mind.

Here are the board members.

7 thoughts on “Another public pension outrage

  1. Mike from Norwell

    Dan, know we went through this with my e-mails on the MBTA abuses, but you are totally right to feel outraged here. Forget the pension amount; retirement age is the killer in escalating costs (witness the MBTA ages). Even the IRS is after this type of abuse. BTW, not holding my breath (or wanting to have to start checking the undercarriage of my car before starting it in the morning), but someone has to dig into the IRC 415 abuses in the MBTA plan sometime. Noone has any guts (or understanding) of the ramification of what has been going on over there. This type of crap borders on Madoff level, if anyone can understand the math.There may be hope for the Republican party after all (if that party can embrace those who finally realize, despite their political leanings, that Howie Carr may actually be onto something).

  2. fbteditor

    While Mike from Norwell can hope that a Republican party resurgence will begin with each public sector abuse revealed, the chances are not good that any real reform will emerge from these outrages. The Republicans don’t have the money or infrastructure to capitalize on these events and there is no chance that reform-minded Democrats in the legislature will be allowed to bring a measure up for debate, much less a vote, since the public sector unions are a mainstay of the party. Congrats to Chris Cassidy for doing such good work on this obscure but important story. He was a solid journalist working for CNC out of the West Concord office a few years ago and is showing that young reporters can still make a contribution.

  3. NewsHound

    Naturally, retirement didn’t even exist only a century ago. If you graph this out eventually they will be retiring in their 20s and retirement will disappear for the general population who are required to financially support this cost. Many of these people don’t really retire. They just collect accumulated sick time and vacation time for a year or so, then retirement benefits and get another job and continue working.How can this board be so out of it? Are they representing the sole and best interests of the citizenry and taxpayers, or the employees selfish monopoly?

  4. Amused

    All you really need to know is that the board is chaired by Timothy Bassett, a serial pension abuser. His wife claims pension credit for time spend on the Lynn library board during which she flat-out skipped going to meetings for her last 29 months. Bassett himself started drawing retirement at age 47 thanks to some deftly drafted legislative and an IOU from Tommy Finneran.By the way, all of this stuff was broken by newspapers. The bloggers are still waiting for every fact they need to be available on-line. Googling one’s way to news is a hell of a lot easier than expending reportorial shoe-leather.

  5. Mike from Norwell

    Didn’t mean to turn this into a sideshow that this could resurrect the GOP in MA.To quantify impact of these changes in actuarial terms (in case anyone cares, just using the standard IRS interest and mortality assumptions under PPA for January ’09 for a male annuitant):1) Before change, say participant is currently age 60, will retire at age 65 with pension of $1,000 per month for their lifetime starting at age 65: present value of these future streams of payments at age 60 is $87,853.2) Now make change so that this same participant at age 60 can begin collecting the same $1,000 at age 60: present value of these new future streams of payment is $139,582.Can use whatever assumptions you want, but the acceleration of the normal retirement age just increased the liability for these benefits by approximately 59%, and this in a year when assets in the fund undoubtedly were down at the minimum 25% for 2008 and the economic climate certainly is not allowing for increased contributions by the municipalities.Dan, yes I’d be outraged.

  6. NewsHound

    Mike – thanks for your contribution by outlining with terms of cost why all of us should be outraged.

  7. NewsHound

    And, too, what newspapers have been doing as a watchdog is so essential – what would it be like without newspapers?

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