The Burlington Retirement Committee proposed critical reforms to Burlington’s Pension plan in late October. With pension liabilities growing faster than the tax base can cover them, the debt “threatens the heart of the city’s success,” according to Mayor Miro Weinberger. The committee’s recommendations include freezing taxpayer contributions for three years, restoring the system’s funding level to 85 percent within seven years, and sharing costs between employees and the city should the BERS (Burlington Employees Retirement System) fail to hit funding targets in a given year. Mayor Weinberger supports the proposed framework because it could end the steep rise in pension-related tax hikes that would impact business owners in Burlington, who would otherwise bear the brunt of the funding gap. The committee’s recommendations have been brought to the four municipal employee unions for collective bargaining talks to begin.
VT Digger – Collective bargaining has begun with all four of Burlington’s municipal employee unions, within a framework of recommendations aimed at reducing the city’s unfunded pension liabilities.
The Burlington Retirement Committee was formed to come up with ways to salvage the city’s rapidly deteriorating pension plans. Deviating dramatically from national averages, the city’s plans plunged from 112 percent funding in 2001 to 69 percent by Fiscal Year 2013. The debt threatens the heart of the city’s success, Mayor Miro Weinberger said at a related summit a year ago.
In late October, the committee produced a report outlining several proposals to help guide the current rounds of contract talks. Committee members include Weinberger, city councilors, representatives of each of the four unions, non-union employees and members of the Burlington Employee Retirement System (BERS) Board.
Their recommendations include freezing taxpayer contributions for three years, restoring the system’s funding level to 85 percent within seven years, and sharing costs between employees and the city should BERS fail to hit funding targets in a given year.
Weinberger said the proposed framework could end the steep rise of pension-related property tax hikes while ensuring that commitments to retirees are kept.
“I appreciate the work the entire Committee did since January to construct this framework,” Weinberger said. “While the framework’s goals will be difficult to achieve in the current collective bargaining round, I am encouraged by the process that got us this far and hopeful that we will achieve mutually beneficial results during bargaining.”
The potential changes were arrived at with the help of a unanimously selected consultant. Documents and minutes from Committee meetings can be found on the City’s website.
Burlington’s four municipal employee unions are AFSCME Local 1343, the Burlington Fire Fighters Association 3044, the Burlington Police Officers Association, and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 300.