EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

August 21, 2013

Proposed pension hike splits board, Fiorentini

By Shawn Regan

---- — HAVERHILL — The City Council will wait for Mayor James Fiorentini to return from a vacation before considering a proposal designed to give a boost to retirees.

The Haverhill Retirement Board on July 9 approved, on a split 3 to 2 vote, a measure that would increase the maximum base amount on which annual 3 percent cost-of-living pay increases would apply. The board would increase the base amount, which is currently $12,000, by $1,000 per year for each of the next three years, capping at $15,000 in 2016.

The council was set to consider the proposal last night, but agreed to postpone it until Sept. 3 at the mayor’s request.

Fiorentini, who opposes the measure, vetoed a simil0ar measure a year ago after it was passed the council.

Information provided by the retirement board shows a $1,000 increase to the cost-of-living base would add $30 per year to a retiree’s benefits. The information also said the median pension for city retirees is $16,600.

In total, the mayor said it would cost the city about $500,000 to increase the cost-of-living base amount to $15,000 over three years, and about $4.8 million over 20 years.

“Everyone wants to do what we can for our retirees, but we need to balance the need to protect our current retirees with the need to protect our future retirees, people who are in their 20s and 30s today,” Fiorentini said. “If we do this, it could cause financial problems down the road that could jeopardize the benefits that future retirees deserve. My top priority is keeping the retirement fund healthy. That’s why I am opposed to this increase in benefits.”

The mayor said he might have been willing to increase the base amount to $13,000 as a compromise, but the board voted for the full $15,000.