ANDOVER — The Andover Retirement Board is deciding if part-time employees will continue to be eligible for pensions from the town.
Currently, anyone working more than 20 hours a week who is a permanent employee is eligible for a pension. The proposed change would bar any future part-time employees who work 35 hours or fewer from receiving a pension.
This potential change comes at the same time voters are being asked to borrow a $185 million pension obligation bond to pay off the unfunded pension liability, which came about because of decades of paying too little into the pension system.
The changes would not have much of an effect on how much the town has to borrow currently, said Jimmy Cuticchia, chair of the board.
"To say we can't look at pension obligation bond without looking at this is misguided," Cuticchia said. "Both issues need to be decided independently."
Cuticchia does receive a pension from the town as a retired firefighter.
Changes to the retirement system take years to see any financial implications because the majority of changes apply to new employees, he said. The decision could save some money up front, however, it could also cost the town good employees, he said.
Former Superintendent Sheldon Berman warned the committee that changes to pension eligibility could impact the district's ability to recruit employees. This is because the majority of the School District's employees work part time because they are only employed for the 180-day school year.
The easy answer to save money might be to cut benefits. However, Cuticchia warns that could prevent the town from hiring the best candidates.
"Just because something costs a little more doesn't mean it's too expensive," he said. "Sometimes you get what you pay for."
Over the past decade, the Retirement Board has made cost-saving changes including raising the age when people can start collecting, he said.
The unfunded pension liability comes from poor decision-making when choosing not to fund it properly, Cuticchia said.
"As a taxpayer and a resident, I think we definitely need to look at the pension obligation bond given the situation we are in it is worth considering," Cuticchia said.
The Retirement Board will have a hearing to listen to input from the public on these changes at 4 p.m. on April 29.