That's the preliminary price tag of a plan to shore up retirement benefits for nearly 160,000 employees in town halls, county administration buildings and classrooms, according to the state
The tab is coming due following warnings of significant red ink in state-managed pension plans.
That projection led to a plan moving through the
The bulk of paying extra to assure pensions stay in the black would not fall on the state, under the legislators' plan. It would fall on cities, towns, schools and other agencies that handle recreation, utilities, health care and other services and whose employees are part of the state's various retirement plans.
While the amount that workers would pay is capped at 9 percent of an employee's earnings, the share paid by employers would rise to 18.6 percent in 2022 from the current 12.6 percent.
Some local officials call the changes unfair since they have no say over operation of the retirement systems and investments.
"It's a bailout,"
Struggling to pay
The bill that's coming could be double the initial estimates.
Overall, the raises would cost local officials
But whatever the amount, it will be "a pretty big number to meet" compared to those in the past, said
Local officials are scrambling to find ways to pay the rising tab, an effort hindered partly by a state cap on local property tax increases.
He also isn't eager to consider layoffs amid pressure for more deputies, firefighters, ambulance crews and 911 dispatchers to keep pace with the increase in people moving to the county.
The pension increases come amid resentment over steady cuts in state aid to local governments during the past decade.
"Any additional burden placed on
It's too soon to say what effect the rising cost of pensions will have on providing services, many local officials say.
But a few hints are emerging.
The increase, combined with higher costs for health insurance, equals a 1 percent raise in tuition at the
Chipping in more for pensions is the latest step in shifting "the burden of paying for higher education away from the state and on to students and families," he said.
Many local officials hope revenue growth and savings will be enough to handle the pension increases.
But some warn the raises will be difficult to absorb, particularly in areas striving to add facilities and staff to keep pace with growth.
"We will have to make some tough decisions,"
A few dozen small communities, including
Shoring up pensions likely will inhibit hiring and increase workloads for those who remain, some experts predict.
"Existing staff is going to have to do more with less," said
The reduction in take-home pay created by the changes also could make jobs at town halls and in classrooms less attractive, she said.
But ending the threat of a pension shortfall is vital, all sides agree.
Accomplishing that means "everybody is going to have to feel some pain," Campbell said.
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