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Massena Town board discusses pension resolutions, not likely to take action


MASSENA - With four of its five members with ties to the New York state Retirement System, the town board decided this week it likely won’t vote on two resolutions already passed by the village board seeking reforms to the state pension program.

One of the resolutions is asking the state to reinstate mandatory 3 percent contribution for employees currently in Tier III or Tier IV of the system after 10 years of service with a second resolution asking them to no longer consider overtime into the calculation of pension benefits.

“The village can’t make these changes and neither can we,” said Town Supervisor Joseph D. Gray. “The state would have to do this.”

Town councilmen Thomas C. Miller and Samuel D. Carbone Jr. said they are both currently in the state pension system, as is Mr. Gray and Councilman Albert C. Nicola. Mr. Gray will one day receive state pension benefits, and Mr. Nicola, who was not in attendance on Wednesday is currently receiving benefits from the system.

Mr. Gray, who supported both of the measures, said that while members of the board are in the system he didn’t necessarily view them voting on the measures as a conflict of interest.

“It’s only a conflict depending on how you vote,” he quipped.

John Macaulay, the lone member of the board not personally part of the state retirement system, said he agreed pension reform is needed, but he said he’s not sure if the ways suggested by the resolution would be the way to go.

“I think the guys working overtime at the local government level are doing it because it’s necessary, not because they’re padding anything,” he said.

As for the reinstating mandatory contributions, Mr. Macaulay said, “I could live with that.”

Mr. Carbone and Mr. Miller said they agreed that the resolutions weren’t the best way to enact change.

Mr. Carbone said a reinstatement of pension contributions would save the town roughly $20,000, but if all state employees in the area were forced to makethe contribution it would pull approximateln $1.5 and $2 million out of the local economy.

“Mr. Gray acknowledged that passing the resolutions wouldn’t likely result in any change. “I don’t know if these resolutions will have a lot of impact, but I think it’s a matter of principle,” he said. “Overtime isn’t part of your salary. Overtime is payment for work over and above your 40 hours per week.

Mr. Gray continued, “It makes no sense that you wouldn’t contribute to your own retirement. If you have a 401-K you don’ stop contributing to it after 10 years. You contribute until you retire,” he said.

Mr. Miller, who is new to the town board, said he was surprised to see how much the town pays out in retirement benefits.

“Being a new politician, I was shocked at what retirement costs are for just the municipality” he said. “I can’t imagine what they are state-wide.”

Mr. Macaulay said that unfortunately change isn’t likely to happen anytime soon.

“You have to have people in Albany with the nerve to do it,” he said.

Mr. Gray agreed, “It’s politicians that are in charge and sometimes they have spines that are less than stiff.”

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