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Pension Costs Weigh on Weston

Weston's contributions to its employee pension fund have increased by nearly 400 percent since 2001. Most workers pay 2.25 percent of their salary, and the town's portion is 11.56 percent. Ten years ago, the town paid 3 percent.

"What once may have been a fair apportionment of pension cost between employer and employee has certainly become unsustainable," Town Administrator Tom Landry said in a letter to Bart Russell, executive director of the Connecticut Council of Small Towns (COST).

Landry also serves as the municipal liaison for the Connecticut State Employees Retirement Commission, which sets rates for municipalities' contributions each year. The commission consists of six trustees appointed by the governor. A simple majority vote by the commission sets town rates, but to change what employees pay requires help from Hartford.

"Legislative action is required to provide meaningful relief to those communities involved in the [Municipal Employees Retirement System] pension fund," Landry said.

Another growing concern lies in the pension system's increasing liabilities. "Even though the MERS fund is coming off a terrific year ... it still lost ground in that its unfunded pension liability was actually higher at the end of the year than it was at the beginning," Landry said. In an interview, Landry added, "Some day we're going to have to pay the bill ... and we won't have the cash to pay it."

In 2008, the Connecticut State Post-Employment Benefits Committee recommended the state increase the amount that state employees contribute toward their retirement plans, but little progress has been made at the municipal level.

Landry met with Rep. Louis Esposito (D-116) to propose legislation to ease the town's burden by increasing employee contributions, and urged COST to do the same.

Tell us your thoughts. Is the town's contribution to its employees pension fund too high? Should the employees pay more?

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