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Thursday, March 23, 2017

NorCo Cuts Pension Benefit For New Hires

At their December meeting, Northampton County's Retirement Board voted unanimously to support Council President John Cusick's motion to cut the pension benefits for new hires.

Employees hired before 1/1/17 are in something called a 1/60 Classification. The formula is as follows:

(1.67%) * (years of service) * (3yr (highest) average salary)/12 = monthly annuity

Based on my calculations, which could be flawed, a 30-year employee whose highest three years results in an average salary of $35,000 would see a monthly annuity of $1,461.25.

Employees hired on or after 1/1/17 are in something called the 1/80 Classification. The formula is as follows:

(1.25%) * (years of service) * (final salary) = monthly annuity

My calculation is that a 30-year employee whose final salary was $35,000 would see a monthly annuity of $1,093.75.

That's a major benefits reduction. Fiscal Affairs Director Jim Hunter explained that's what's going on in some other counties. Lehigh County went from a 1/60 classification to a 1/70 classification in January 2015. Monroe County has been 1/80 since 2011. But Berks is still 1/60.

In other business, Executive John Brown requested the Board to deny a cost-of-living increase for retirees in 2017,though they were eligible for a 0.03% increase. Brown and Cusick opposed the increase,primarily because it would cost the county $549,428.

Peg Ferraro, a Council member seeking reelection who sits on the Retirement Board, voted to cut retirement benefits and deny a COLA to retirees.

Glenn Geissinger, another Council member who is seeking reelection and who also sits on the Retirement Board, was a no-show for the Board's most important meeting of the year.

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

Word is Peg Ferraro has been fighting the pensions and pension increases for years. Can you blame her?

Anonymous said...

What is the shock. These guys are not employee friendly and do not believe in the concept of pensions. If it were totally up to them pensions as well as healthcare would be abandoned. The retirees should take notice of this but they won't.

Anonymous said...

Unsustainable pensions are ........... unsustainable.

Anonymous said...

Norco pension is almost fully funded, not unsustainable as u say, please get your facts straight before you post your drivel

Anonymous said...

Unsustainable is an understatement when 0.03% comes to over $500K.

Anonymous said...

What else is new. First the county increases the employee's healthcare cost's due to a lie by saying the county would be fined if they didn't now their saying they must decrease pension costs. Lets be frank ! The county does not care about its workforce nor do they give a rats butt if they leave or retire. County employee's use to be proud and be thankful for their jobs now its the opposite. Mr. Brown and county council has destroyed the workforce. I hope their happy. Time to vote no to Mr. Brown and his cronies.

Anonymous said...

Your counsel president works for one of the best school districts in NJ. his benefets are top notch why should he care?

Anonymous said...

Glad to see this happen. Public employee pensions are way out of line. Congrats to those pols who finally stood up.

Anonymous said...

According to the minutes, The Fiscal advisor who gave the numbers to the Retirement Board explained to them that the COLA is spread out over ten years. This means that the County Cost to give a pension COLA to its retirees (approximately 1,200 of them) would have been about $84,000.00 annually. The budget is more than 300 million dollars. 84 thousand isn't even a blink of the eye on that budget. They have screwed their own employees time and time again and they have no shame. Peg Ferraro and Cusick are both school teachers who are the biggest hypocrites to ever serve in County Government. They reap the benefits of a retirement system and now that they have theirs, they shaft the dedicated work force of the County. The 2,300 county employees and the 1,200 retirees will remember them at election time. That's 3,500 former and present employees. We will not forget Ferraro and Cusick and neither will our families who also vote..

Anonymous said...

Why do county/state/federal governments still rely on pensions? Most of us in the private sector had them phased out years ago in exchange for a 401k. Is there a reason the county can't offer new employees a 401k option instead?

Bernie O'Hare said...

The way I look at it, the pension cut for new hires and the COLA are two different things. I can see the wisdom in the pension cuts for new hires, especially when these are defined benefit pensions. It has no negative impact on existing employees and new hires can turn the job down if hey are idiotic enough to think that the pension is too low.

The COLA is different. It appears, based on the comment at 8:21, that the cost is far lower than represented. I would support all COLAs unless the pension is in trouble.

In defense of Peg, she is being consistent with previous votes she has cast on this topic. And she retired as a school teacher when pensions were meager. But retirees have a right to know how she voted and to know that Geissinger was absent from the retirement board's most important meeting of the year.

Bernie O'Hare said...

8:31, I would argue that the fact that many employees in the private sector are treated like shit by their employers is no justification for treating employees in the public sector like shit as well. I would agree with a conversion to 401ks, but only if there were significant increases in salary so that pubic sector employees were paid in a manner equivalent to what is paid in the private sector.

Anonymous said...

How do you fund pensions for existing employees if new employees go 401k? I guess that means raising taxes as less money comes from the new employees. Sounds reasonable.

Also, historically look how often they dip into the pension fund. Why is it not 100%+ funded? Us employees are constantly putting money in to it. I understand I'm helping pay for those that are retired. What happens when I retire? So I'm left working 20+ years with absolutely nothing to show for it? Why am I the enemy? I want what everyone wants. A house, food and a chance to enjoy the later years of my life.

Currently I believe I'm so hated that my retirement will be gone by the time I get there. Do any of you that hate us honestly believe the business take the hit when health care costs go up? Do you think that business don’t raise prices on your favorite ice cream, cheese or spaghetti sauce? Or make the products smaller but the same price? Why is it when you SEE the number that it costs over the long term it is so horrific? So revolting?

I am a tax payer for Northampton County and an Employee. I pay myself to work. And I am still proud of what I do. Im sorry for those that aren’t.

Bernie O'Hare said...

8:49, Being treated like shit by your employer is no justification for demanding that everyone be treated like shot. It is a self-defeating proposal, even if it is human nature. No doubt your views are shared by a large majority in the private sector, but it is still self-defeating.

Anonymous said...

I pay myself to work. Goofy

Anonymous said...

I can't make up my mind on this issue. On one hand, I am your cheap typical Norco taxpayer who loathes any tax increase. The pensions for new employees need to end and be replaced by a 401k with a generous employer match, such as 100% match of the employee's first 5% contribution. If only for long term viability of county finances...I'm in my 30s and this is already a mess. What's it going to be like when I'm 65?

But how do we get new money going into the pension system for the people already in the plan and who will be retiring in future years? If new people aren't paying in, don't taxes have to go up?

I do agree that except for maybe the top dozen or so, most county employees are paid absolute peanuts compared to the private sector. But, as of the current time, they do get the pension plan, which makes up for some of the difference. I don't know of any non-government entity in the Lehigh Valley that is still offering new employees a defined benefit pension plan. Even old school companies like PPL did away with that years ago.

Anonymous said...

The pension fund is not a mess in nor co it is around 90% funded

Anonymous said...

Good pension plans were an incentive for low-tier, low-paid workers to apply and stay. I have one of those pension plans that everyone without the same one loves to hate.
It's a great plan and something I look forward to benefiting from some day for the meager wages I am collecting now.
There is a problem with it, though. No cap on total earnings that can be applied to it. I know of upper management making over $180K that will retire making damn close to what they are making working. That's where the pain is. Cap it (pick a number) and then you are switched to a 401K, would be reasonable in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

Dwight Danser was recently appointed to the Retirement Board to represent the retirees, but did not attend because he was not informed of the meeting.

Anonymous said...

This is the way these guys operate. Brown and his council hate anything employee related. They make up stores about health care and pensions and then get the general public to buy into to their bullshit.
The Nor Co pension is in great shape. Even thought that is the case, even though they chopped healthcare, they still raised your taxes 10% in their first year in office.
So far the Republican message is do as we say not as we do. Also it is about time the employees and retirees see what Ferraro has been doing to them for years. By the way if you think her pension is small check the numbers.

All a bunch of hypocrites that use hate and fear as their allies.

Anonymous said...

It is time for Northampton County to do a comprehensive wage scale survey and update these outdated salaries and benefit packages. One of the problems in getting this accomplished is selling the idea to the unions. If they don't like the results they will scuttle the plan. If the benefit packages and the wages are out of line then those salaries should be capped. If the wages and salaries are too low, then those wages and salaries should be brought in line with the surrounding community wage scales. The generous pension and medical benefits were awarded to County employees years ago because the wages were very low. Let's see a comparison to what is being paid elsewhere in the Valley and then make a decision. The last survey was done more than 25 years ago. Since then, a whole new generation of employees have started and retired from County Government. People are living longer now and the benefit packages and retirement packages may or may not be adequate. Do the survey and let's find out.

Anonymous said...

How did we as a working people get to the point that we hate each other over pensions. At one tome we all wanted and knew the value of real fixed benefit pensions, not the make believe 401K saving account "pension". Yet at a time when profits ARE at an all-time high and wealth is in its greatest value, pensions have been taken away. Rather than help each other by advocating for a dignified retirement and living wages, we beat each other over the head at the behest of the wealthy class. Rather than work to make real pensions again available, people condemn those who still get them and want them taken away.

Why do we want people to suffer because some of us feel we are suffering? What happened to working together to help lift each other up?

Bernie, I think the rich and powerful have completely somehow made it ever more prevalent to have working people fight each other over crumbs and in fact fight a self-defeating war against each other on behalf of the rich corporate interests. It is just baffling as to why we are so eager to help business in driven us down.

Anonymous said...

Some of your readers ask why we don't have a 401 K instead of the County Pension Plan? The County should set this up for the employees now that they lowered future pensions for retirees. This administration, the majority of County Council, and the retirement board are anti-employee and anti-retiree. Peg Ferraro and John Cusick lead the charge. When are you going to wise up as County Employees and Retirees and throw these bums out of office?

Anonymous said...

Employees and retirees yap and yapp, they don't vote