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Bad News Waiting For 780 Woonoscket Retirees, Beneficiaries At Monday Meeting

Suspended COLAs, switch to Medicare for retirees needed as part of city's 5-year plan to solvency.

 

"The overall financial condition of this city is severe," said Finance Director Thomas Bruce, and the solution involves bad news for Woonsocket's 780 retirees and beneficiaries as well as its taxpayers.

On Monday, 3 p.m. at Woonsocket High School, the city and the Woonsocket Budget Commission will host an informational meeting to lay out the city's situation and retiree/beneficiaries' anticipated role in the solution.

Among the pieces of bad news people can expect to hear, Bruce said, is the elimination of the 3 percent Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for retirees. 

According to a city letter sent to retirees and beneficiaries (see attached .pdf), Woonsocket's pension plan is critically under-funded at 56.7 percent ($58 million of a $98 million total obligation) as of July 1, 2012, under the 60 percent threshold set by the state, making suspension of the COLA a necessary part of the city's deficit reduction plan.

In addition, the city's Other Post-Employment Benefits (OPEB) - or healthcare obligation - stands at $210 million, which the city has made minimal contributions to, must also be addressed. Unless the city begins making signifcant contributions to the Annual Required Contribution (ARC), "...it will not be able to make payment to current or future retirees for some or any of the promised health benefits in the future," the letter reads. 

To address the OPEB shortfall, the city will require retirees over 65 who qualify to switch from the city's health plan to Medicare this year, and the city needs eligible retirees to notify them of their Medicare status - either a Medicare card or a denial letter - by March 31. 

Retirees who are not Medicare-eligible will have to pay a 20 percent co-pay and a $1,000 family deductible or $500 individual deductible. 

Bruce said that while the hardships are dire, so is the sacrifice being asked of taxpayers. Also, he said, if the city is not able to make this and the rest of the plan work, a receiver will likely be appointed for the city.

For retirees who believe they welcome that development, Bruce points to the case of Central Falls, where a reciever cut base pay benefits nearly in half, from $300 to $170. 

Bruce said the meeting should last two hours, and will involve input from pension system actuaries, members of the Woonsocket Finance Department, Budget Commission Chairman Bill Sequino, and city labor lawyer Dan Kinder.

During the meeting, officials will present the city's situation, the plan to fix the deficit and unfunded pensions/benefits, and three pieces of information:

1) Next year's COLA

2) Each year without the COLA

3) Payments beneficiaries would receive if Woonsocket followed Central Falls' lead in recievership. 

The second hour of the meeting will be devoted to a question and answer session. "The retirees deserve all the information that's out there," said Bruce.  

Nelson Aldrich February 21, 2013 at 12:30 PM
How about bondholders? Where's their contribution? Oh,i forgot,in this corrupt state they have to be paid first.That's the law.
Really? February 21, 2013 at 05:46 PM
It's pretty sad when you work 20 yrs , retire with a letter in hand saying you'd receive X,Y and Z for the rest of your life and bam now suddenly it goes out the window because people who were entrusted to spend wisely, cannot do so.....
MAE February 21, 2013 at 09:33 PM
As a retiree, I received the letter and plan to attend this meeting but I would like to add a thought for all these local government fools killing us little peons, Lest you forget: my pension is used to support this so-called city. I've already lost my COLA and yet my taxes have gone up significantly, We homeowners get hit with the double barreled shotgun via real estate taxes, property tax, and lets not forget that we also pay increased water, sewer, and trash taxes. Guess where I get the money to pay these increased taxes...that's right MY PENSION. A pension I worked hard to earn...I didn't get it by sitting on my butt (forced edit) drinking beer and getting fat. I chose to buy my home in the city I worked in and still work in because I have to continue to work to pay my TAXES. My mortgage is NOT a problem, my household expenses are not a problem...the TAXES are the problem, they literally more than DOUBLE my mortgage payment and that's just the real estate portion. Now you want to cut into my pension again with more health care costs. I literally can't afford it. Hello bankruptcy! My only problem is that I don't want to hurt the creditors that have not done me any harm. They didn't raise the rates on me...ie my mortgage, in fact they offered me a no risk reduced interest rate. Why should I hurt them, they have been fair. No, It's this asininely run city that I have the unfortunate situation of living in. There ARE better places to live with stores and lower taxes."
ANTHONY RYAN February 21, 2013 at 10:05 PM
How come it is only the working man that is taking a hit. The State continues to hand out more welfare and is concerned with assisting illegal aliens in this state. When are benefits going to be cut for the people who do not work never worked and do not plan on working. When are these people going to start paying copays and premiums. When is the state going to stop giving illegals food stamps free housing free cell phones and all the benefits they are not entitled to under federal law. Taking money from the retirees is alot easier then asking a whole class of people that is close to 50 percent in this country and probable more in this state that contribute very little and expect alot off the backs of the hard working people in this state. ISN'T it time for the state to make cuts to social programs and give the cities and towns the money they promised so they can pay the promises that were made. I have nothing against the poor but it bothers me to see people who contribute nothing get more benefits from the state then people who worked there entire lives. It's time to do something about social services and government waste before we cut from the working class. In the last 5 years the tax payers and the employees and employers have suffered alot. How much has someone who sits home and clooects welfare suffered they still collect food stamps, cash for having kids cheap housing and thanks to Obama free phones.
Memere February 21, 2013 at 10:56 PM
I also work for the city and am close to retirement age. Because of these heartless idiots who are proposing these increased taxes I will NEVER be able to retire. I also live in the city and own my home - I will NEVER be able to sell that also. We, the homeowners of Woonsocket DID NOT CREATE THIS PROBLEM. Many of us would dearly love to leave this city yet we cannot without taking a severe loss when we try to sell our homes. We have worked all of our lives and paid our taxes for years and now when it is time to retire, our lovely city administration is trying to take everything from us to make upfor mistakes that THEY HAVE MADE. Where is the justice in that for the hard working homeowners?
Mew February 21, 2013 at 11:36 PM
Mae, I feel your paiin, I really do, I have to pay all these taxes without a pension!!! I always loved living here in WOON. i am so ashamed to tell anyone where I live!!! It's horrible what these people in City Hall have done to us all. I scream everytime I drive thru the Morin Boulevard, they sit there and enjoy their beer, watching the city employees cutting the grass, cleaning up their lawns. They pay no supplemental, they live like KINGS!! Yiu And I and amn y more taxpayers take care of them. THAT MAKES ME VERY ANGRY!!!!! AND WAIT TILL THE START WITH THE WATER BILLS!!! I'm geting out as soon as i can. I just hope you really speak up and let them know how really angry you are. GOOD LUCK!!
Jay February 22, 2013 at 12:45 AM
Let the exodus begin. Major population drop coming. Well, homeowners that is.
MAE February 22, 2013 at 01:59 PM
Mew, I feel your pain as well. I too, worked and had to pay these taxes before I decided to retire from a career I loved and frankly was very good at. I still have to work in order to make ends meet. I bought my home, raised a child alone w/o help and have NEVER taken a dime from any social service. Everything I have, I worked for. Not like those folks who sit around drinking beer watching the city workers do their chores. I mowed my own lawn and shoveled my own snow while these jerks drove by in cars much nicer than mine. I've often worked 2-3 jobs so that I could give my son a good life and I never bemoaned my plight. But now, everything I sacrificed for is being taken in the form of taxes. I am a tax slave! I went without as most of us who work and own a home do, things like no cable, heating very low, no eating out...tell those on Bourdon Blvd to do that! yeah right. ALL the homeowners need to stand up and say...NO MORE. I truly am ready to walk away and salvage what I can of my life before it's over. Jay, Anthony, Memere you guys are right on too. We need to stand up to these elected fools...You know who elected them: The general populas that are benefiting from these social programs...not those of us who own property and pay taxes. They outnumber us!!!!
ANTHONY RYAN February 22, 2013 at 09:33 PM
Yesterday I heard on the news that RHODE ISLAND is the 2ND MOST GENEROUS STATE FOR WELFARE AND SOCIAL PROGRAMS. WE ARE 47 IN BUSINESS CLIMATE AND NEAR BOTTON ON THE LIST OF PLACES TO LIVE. THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY IS MORE INTERESTED IN GAY MARRIAGE, PLASTIC TRASH BAGS AND RAISING TAXES ON RICH, RAISING SALES TAX AND PROPERTY TAXES AND TAking BENEFITS FROM THE WORKING PEOPLE WHO PAY INCOME TAX, PROPERTY TAX AND ANY TAX YOU CAN THINK OF TO GIVE TO THE LAZY PEOPLE IN THIS STATE. BEFORE SOMEONE ATTACKS ME I AM NOT TALKING ABOUT THE TRUELY DISABLED. My comments are directed at illegal aliens who .live in public housing, get food stamps, heat assistance and live in subsidized housing who have free OBAMA phones and much more. Isnt it funny how our politicians are more concerned with those who are here illegally as well as those who sit home and do nothing. I am sick and tired of hearing the kids suffer. Well I suffer every day I go to work pay my bills and barely have a dime to my name while lazy slobs sit home get pregnant at a very early ages pop one baby after another and the state hands them everything for free. Who told them to have all those kids. If you want kids then get off your butt and pay instead of sitting around for a free ride. I also resent the the people who are hear illegall from Mexico that want a free ride. Mexico is smart it dumps all its social problems on American taxpayers and we continue to elect the same morons who give them everything free.
ANTHONY RYAN February 22, 2013 at 09:53 PM
We need to kick everyone out of OFFICE THAT LOVES TO GIVE OUR MONEY AWAY. This state has been run by liberal democrats for years that just keeps leading us down the same path and we elect them back into offfice over and over. Time for everyone to go NOW. Lincoln Chaffee has invested more time trying to keep a murderer alive that killed someone on Diamond Hill Rd. then he has on trying to fix the big problems of the state. Over spending, welfare and welfare freud. At a time when we cut state aid and took benefits away from people our Governor spent 5 million to save a murderer who killed a man in cold blood for money. Our General Assemblay equally has it's priorities in the wrong places. It's time the General Assembly start cutting taxes pay the obligations promised fix overspending and do something so that RHODE ISLAND is no longer a magnet for the people who need excessive social programs. In RI we never learn we elect the same people again. For example David Cicillini left Providence in a mess he clearly hid the financial problems but he got elected. I can go on but it wont matter the same people will be elected again and again and nothing will change good luck city employees I am not a city employee but I know enough of them and many of you got screwed thanks the state and cities and towns. We all paid our taxes but the state did not do what they PROMISED instead of protecting us they help themselves and the people that keep them in office.
Mew February 22, 2013 at 10:41 PM
Oh Mae!! You have put it so well, I have lived here all my life also,worked many years in the medical field, I was so proud of this city I can remember when we were voted the All American Ciy! Can you believe that. Of coursr Kev Coleman was a REAL mayor!! Mae, OI see the cars that these cruds are driving down Linden Ave. Brand new cars, not me,my car, it a 2000!! I follow the same routine as you, low heat, I haven't eaten out in years, I just can't afford it. What got me when I was watching the city council the other night, with all our problems we have, now we are fighting this young man who has therr chickens!!!! PLEASE!!! Let me state right here I am not one who elected these Buffons, I drag myself to the polls and voted against them all. Altho I do think the only intelligent person there is Mr. Brien. So folks lets kick the whole bunch of them out this time!! Mae, I do feel your pain!!
Memere February 23, 2013 at 10:09 PM
Mae, Mew & Anthony, I fully agree with you. I also DID NOT vote for these "Buffoons". I also would like our country to be back the way it used to be and our city also. As for immigrants, we have always had immigrants - we are all immigrants. What I object to is the illegal and immoral ( Oh my - an old fashioned word) behavior that is going on. Enough is Enough!
ANTHONY RYAN February 25, 2013 at 09:16 PM
Once again the President and Democrats are playing games with us threatening to cut 40 million in aid to RI. AND AIF THAT HAPPENS THEY WILL ONCE AGAIN TAKE IT AWAY FROM THE WORKING MAN AND RAISE TAXES. FIRST THEY SHOULD CUT SOCIAL PROGRAM SPENDING AND NEXT THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT SHOULD CUT WASTEFUL SPENDING AND PAY THE STATES AND CITIES THE MONEY THEY PROMISED SO THEY CAN MEET THE OBLIGATIONS PROMISED. AS I SAID BEFORE WE NEED TO VOTE ABSOLUTELY EVERYONE OUT OF OFFICE. THEY ALWAYS HURT THE WORKING MAN AND TAX PAYERS AND PROTECT THE PEOPLE WHO ARE DRAGGING SOCIETY DOWNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN. PEOPLE ON WELFARE STILL GET COLA'S AND FREE HEALTHCARE WITH NO DEDUCTIBLE AND IF THEY GO ON MEDICARE LIKE THEY EXPECT CITY EMPLOYEES THE STATE YES THE STATE PICKS UP THE COPAYS AND DEDUCTIBLE AND THEN THE STATE CHARGES THE WORKING MAN AND TAX PAYER FOR THESE FREEBEES. ONLY IN AMERICA CAN SOMEONE ON WELFARE WHO PAYS NOTHING GET MORE FROM THE GOVERNMENT THAN THE PEOPLE THAT ACTUALLY WORK FOR A LIVING..........
Novan for Life February 26, 2013 at 11:57 AM
anthony the democrats didn't create the sequester the GOP put that in to cut spending. As far as the rest of your comment it's just in my view someone (complaining that life isn't fair) well get over it thats reality
ANTHONY RYAN February 26, 2013 at 09:21 PM
Novan for life check your facts your boy obama asked for and got sequester he also said he would veto any changes. I never said life is fair and unlike many I do and expect to pay my way. My problem with the government is they take from the workers and taxpayers and give give give to social programs. NOVAN DO YOU PAY FOR YOUR CELL PHONE OR DOES OBAMA DO YOU GET DIRT CHEAP RENT WITH HEAT AND ELECTRIC FREE, DO U SIT HOME AND COLLECT EVERY IMAGINABLE BENEFIT FROM THE GOVERNMENT WHIILE OTHERS WORK AND PAY. I CAN GO ON AND ON I JUST CANT SEE TAKING BENEFITS FROM THE WORKING MAN AND THEN HANDING IT OVER TO PEOPLE HERE ILLEGALLY OR WHO NEVER WORKED AND EXPECT FREE STUFF FROM THE WORKERS. IT'S TIME WE RISE UP AND TELL OUR POLITICIANS ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. IF YOU WANT TO DRINK OBAMAS KOOL AID GO AHEAD WHEN GAS AND HEALTHCARE KEEP GOING UP AND THE NON WORKING PEOPLE GET MORE FROM THE GOVERNMENT THAN THE WORKERS MAYBE YOU WILL FIGURE IT OUT THAT IS IF YOU ARE THE WHO IS PAYING INSTEAD OF RECEIVING ALL THE TIME............IF YOU FOLLOW MY COMMENTS I AM NOT A CITY WORKER AND I DO BELIEVE THE CITY AND STATE GAVE OUT GENEROUS BENEFITS WE CANNOT AFFORD BUT I BELIEVE BEFORE WE ATTACK THE WORKING MAN AND TAX PYRS WE STOP WAISTING AND GIVING OUR MONEY AWAY NEEDLESS AND PAY OUR OBLIGATIONS. IF THE GOVERNMENT DID ALL THIS AND THEN STILL HAD TO CUT BENEFITS THAT WOULD BE DIFFERENT BUT UNTIL THEN THIS IS HOW I FEEL. CHECK YOUR SEQUESTER FACTS FORGET MADDOW AND MATTEWS LOOK UP THE FACTS
Stan Hanson February 26, 2013 at 09:59 PM
Better wake ujp Novan and take your LIBERAL SKULL out of your BUTTY. The GOP DID NOT create this ungodly squester. Please pay attention to the NEWS..your LIBERAL-SOCIALIST PRESIDENT invented the sequester idea with other idiots in the WHITE HOUSE!! So, STOP blaming the Republicans, as OBAMA wants you too, and look in the liberal mirror. This is the TRUTH!!
Stan Hanson February 26, 2013 at 10:00 PM
I already receive the PATCH on a daily basis.

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