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York's municipal pension system in better shape: auditor general

Written by Gary Haber/York Daily Record | Oct 25, 2016 12:59 PM
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Flanked by officials from York's police and firefighters unions, state Auditor General said York's pension plans are in better shape because of changes the unions agreed to.(Photo: Gary Haber, York Daily Record)

Cooperation between York and its police and firefighters unions is saving the city millions a year, state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said.

(York) -- York's municipal pension system is in better shape because of concessions made by the unions representing the city's police officers and firefighters, state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said Monday.

York saved a combined $9.4 million in pension costs in 2015 and 2016 as a result of the Fraternal Order of Police agreeing to raise the retirement age for its members and cap cost-of-living increases for retired police officers, DePasquale said at a news conference at York City Hall on Monday.

His office on Monday released the results of its latest audit of York's pension plans for police officers, firefighters and other city workers. The audit was for the two years ending Dec. 31, 2015.

But while the two unions' compromises helped put the pension plans on a firmer footing, the city still has a long way to go, DePasquale said.

Some $55 million of the city's $161.2 million in pension liabilities was unfunded in 2015, seventh-worst among municipal pension plans in the state. DePasquale said he expects York's ranking to improve with the next audit.

Municipal governments around the state have unfunded pension liabilities of almost $8 billion combined. A pension plan is considered underfunded when the actuarial value of its assets isn't enough to meet all of the projected pension payments the plan is obligated to pay, according to a report from DePasquale's office on the condition of the state's municipal pension plans.

The York Professional Firefighters Association also agreed to limit cost of living raises for its retirees, a move that will be reflected in additional savings on pensions in the next audit, DePasquale said.

DePasquale, flanked by Mayor Kim Bracey and officials from the police officers and firefighters unions, said he hopes the cooperation between the city and its municipal unions becomes a model for other municipalities around the state.

The York County Democrat is running for reelection against Northampton County Executive John Brown, a Republican.

The pension concessions the police union made kept the city from laying off about 40 police officers, almost half of the police force, Fraternal Order of Police President Jeremy Mayer said.

The concessions were part of a four-year contract the city and the union negotiated in 2014. The agreement, among other things, raised the retirement age to 55 for police officers hired after Jan. 1, 2015. It had been 50 previously.

The agreement also limited annual cost-of-living adjustments for retired police officers to no more than 2.5 percent a year. In past years, the increases had ranged between 1 percent and 4 percent, Mayer said.

The firefighters agreed to a similar 2.5 percent cap, union president Fred DeSantis said.

This story is part of a partnership between WITF and the York Daily Record.

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