COLA

Articles about the Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) that may be useful to Massachusetts retirees

Easthampton Rejects COLA, Will Vote Again

JULY 2001 - The
Easthampton Retirement Board, which voted 3-2 against a July COLA, will
take a second vote on June 29. Board member Mary Brewer, who voted
against the COLA, has moved reconsideration, allowing the Board to vote
again. It is expected that the meeting room will be packed with
retirees on June 29.

COLA Hearing Encouraging

MAY 2001 -
Next Step: Cost Data - February 27 was opening day for the Joint Legislative Committee on
Public Service, the first of 16 scheduled hearing dates which will
conclude on June 26.

Cellucci Budget Calls For 3% COLA

MARCH 2001 -
Local Boards Also Take Action - On January 24, Governor Paul Cellucci submitted his FY2002 state budget
(H1) to the Legislature. Included in the $22.5 billion budget package
was language that would trigger a 3% COLA for eligible retired state
employees and teachers this July.

Arlington Cola Correction

JANUARY 2001 -
In earlier reporting on retirement boards which did not pay a
retroactive COLA for 1999, we failed to include Arlington. The
Arlington Retirement Board did not take a vote on increasing the July
1999 COLA to 3%, but instead stayed with the 1.3% CPI COLA. Out of our
104 local retirement boards, 99 voted to pay a retroactive 3% for 1999.
Five, including Arlington, paid a 1.3% COLA.

Hingham Accepts Cola Law

NOVEMBER 2000 -
The adage "better late than never" is certainly apropos when it comes
to the town of Hingham and Chapter 17, the COLA law sponsored by our
Association and enacted back in '97. Over the past two years or so, the
Voice has chronicled the ongoing controversy, in which we
objected to efforts by Hingham officials to establish their own COLA
plan, which was significantly different from Chapter 17. One major
issue, on which we criticized the Hingham plan, was that it failed to
make COLA increases a permanent part of a retiree's pension as is the
case under Chapter 17.

Most Local Retirees Receive 3% COLA

SEPTEMBER 2000 -
Only Five Boards Did Not Vote Full Increase (1999 & 2000) - With few exceptions, our 104 local retirement boards took advantage of
the opportunity to vote 3% COLAs for their retirees and survivors for
both 1999 and 2000.

State, Teacher Retirees To Receive 3% COLA

SEPTEMBER 2000 -
Effective: July 2000 - Members of the State and Teachers' Retirement Systems will receive
their new 3% COLAs in their August checks, the checks mailed at the end
of August.

A Week In Webster Mass

JULY 2000 - 
An Insurance Loss, A Cola Victory - Webster, a South-Central Massachusetts town with a population of
16,089, was the emotional scene of heavy Association activity this
spring.

Members of that community
asked for help with a ballot question, Question 1, which if voted
favorably at a May 1 town election would have required the town to pay
50% of its retirees health and life insurance premiums.

Webster’s
retirees have always paid the full cost of their premiums while
employees currently contribute 15%, with the town paying 85%. HMO
members pay 10%, the town 90%. The full cost of a retiree’s Medex plan,
for example, is $232.87 monthly.

Twice
previously the 50% insurance contribution had been on the ballot and
handily defeated. After an all-out effort by our Association, members
of the Webster Retirement Board, retirees of that town and their
supporters we would like to report a victory. But we can’t. The measure
went down to defeat 1,387 to 937 - only a slight gain over previous
years.

"Put this one in the loss
column," said Association President Ralph White who was not
discouraged. "We gave it our best shot and it just wasn’t winnable at
this time. We’ve always promised that we would give the retirees of
small towns the same support that we give retirees of the large systems
such as the state and teachers. Unfortunately, requiring a town to pick
up a portion of retirees’ insurance can only be accomplished as a
ballot question. We’ll have to try a different strategy next time."

White
praised the organizers of the Vote Yes on Question 1 drive. Town
Treasurer Dorothy Dabrowski, who is an elected member of the Webster
Retirement Board, and her assistant treasurer, Ellie Doros, headed the
drive at town hall. Board members June Perry and Lou Polletta, along
with retired police chief Paul Minarik, were also key activists.

"Dorothy
and her crew were well-organized," said White. There were newspaper
ads, phone banks and several mailings. Some towns are tough to crack
when the issue is required to be a ballot question rather than a town
meeting vote."

COLA Win Lifts Spirits

Spirits
of Webster’s retirees were somewhat lifted on May 8, just a week after
the insurance loss, when Town Meeting voted to accept the new COLA law,
allowing the town’s retirement board to pay full 3% COLAs.

Taking
no chances, another full-scale drive was put in motion during the week
leading up to Town Meeting. This time, dealing with voters attending an
open Town Meeting proved to be more compatible than a town-wide secret
ballot. The COLA vote passed with relative ease by a voice vote.

"Town
meetings can be tough and contentious, but dealing with reasonable
people face-to-face is much more opportunistic than a ballot. This was
proven in Webster," White noted. "Of course presenting your case before
a city council is even more desirable. However, town meetings are
considered by many to be the truest form of democracy, a fact we just
have to recognize."

New Cola Costs Now Local Responsibility

JULY 2000 -
State Payments Gave Systems Head Start - Since the inception of Prop 2 1/2 in 1981 pension, COLA payments
totaling $1.371 billion have been distributed by the state to local
retirement systems, greatly helping these systems to get a handle on
their unfunded pension liabilities.

Cola Eligibility: How It Works

JULY 2000 -
Retirees or survivors who were receiving a pension prior to July 1,
1999 are eligible for the July, 2000 COLA. Members who retired between
July 1, 1999 and June 30, 2000 will be eligible for the July 2001 COLA.