Vernon Selectboard addresses pension plan

Editor of the Reformer:

This is in response to the recent letter ("The dark side of Vernon," Feb. 12) regarding the town of Vernon’s pension plan.

The Selectboard has not terminated the defined benefit plan as of Dec. 31, 2013, rather the plan was frozen as of that date. However, the decision has been made to terminate that plan and move employees’ town funded retirement benefits into a 457(b) plan, which has been in existence in Vernon for several years.

The Selectboard began looking at switching plans last year. The existing taxpayer funded employee retirement plan is a defined benefit pension plan that guarantees all employees a defined return, regardless of stock market movements. From 2008 to 2012, the plan’s investments (the town has absolutely no control over these; by law these plans must be managed by independent financial institutions) did not cover the compulsory return, and the town was required to put $394,054 into the plan to bring it up to full funding status. Since it is impossible for the Selectboard to know how the stock market might perform in future years, it decided that keeping this defined benefit plan in place was too great a potential liability for the town going forward, as there is no way to tell when or if further market downturns could force taxpayers to come up with town money to fully fund the plan. (This same set of circumstances has forced some municipalities into bankruptcy). So, the Board decided to freeze and terminate the plan and move to 457(b) Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) for all eligible employees. Once the plan is terminated, each employee who has been part of the retirement plan will be notified of the amount of money that they have in the plan and will meet with a qualified financial representative in order to decide how best to invest their pension funds in their new retirement account. The result will be that the town will no longer have any future unknown liability issues relative to employee retirement benefits, and the Selectboard will have the ability to decide each year, depending on the financial status of the town, whether, and to what extent, to match employees’ 457(b) contributions. This Selectboard has decided to contribute to the plan.

It is important to note that the board is not fully funding the defined plan in order to spend it (the money has already been spent as far as the town is concerned, as it has contributed each year to the pension account), but rather because it is the town’s obligation to keep the plan at full funding. Freezing the plan but not terminating it, as was suggested in the letter , does not solve the future risk problem, because the town is still responsible for making contributions to keep the plan fully funded until it is terminated. Also, paying out the funds as a transfer to IRA accounts will not be an additional burden to the town, as all participants monies are currently in their pension accounts.

Vernon’s Town Meeting this year will be more difficult than prior years as there are financial choices to be made that none of us have ever been forced to confront, but at the end of the day, we hope that the meeting will be about what is best for the town and how we survive into the future, not about one group fighting against another.

Patty O’Donnell, Chris Howe,

Sandy Harris, Jeff Dunklee

and Janet Rasmussen,

Vernon Selectboard, Feb. 13

Regarding Rockingham’s upcoming elections

Editor of the Reformer:

I have been a resident, voter and tax payer in the town of Rockingham for the past 30 years. Some of those years were enjoyably spent living in the village of Bellows Falls. So I am familiar with and support the established form of government consisting of the Village Board of Trustees and the Rockingham Selectboard.

The two boards were created as separate and distinct entities in order to independently represent the interests of citizens who reside within the Village of Bellows Falls as well as townspeople who live outside the Village boundaries. 

Please allow me to preface my next remarks by saying that I have the utmost respect and admiration for all the elected individuals who serve. They are willing to spend the time and energy required of these positions and I applaud them for their efforts. However, I think our elected officials should limit themselves to running for election to either the Village Board of Trustees or the Selectboard, not both.

To have the same individuals serving on both boards, boards that were designed to be autonomous and independent, tends to concentrate too much influence and authority in the hands of a few individuals.

Additionally, the amount of time required to be an effective board member is substantial. I question whether any single individual has the time and energy required to serve simultaneously on two boards. I believe they would spread themselves too thin and not be effective at either.

Finally, an individual who participates on both boards will one day be faced with an issue that forces them to favor one constituency over the other. This situation would not be fair to the voters of either the town or the village.

I thank all the candidates for their interest and dedication to the community and urge them to choose one board on which to serve.

Thomas Hernon,

Rockingham, Feb. 24

Massucco on candidacy, ‘Trustees you can trust’

Editor of the Reformer:

On Tuesday, March 4, the voters in the Town of Rockingham will have a chance to elect four candidates running for the Rockingham Free Public Library Board of Trustees. I am an incumbent trustee and one of those four candidates. The four candidates, Doreen Aldrich, David Gould, Carol Blackwood and I are running as a unified slate and would appreciate your votes.

Over the last couple of years the present leadership of the library has lost the public’s trust due to repeated violations of Vermont’s Open Meeting Law and personal agendas that do not have the best interests of the library and its patrons foremost in mind. The board is here to serve the citizens of Rockingham and the residents and non-residents who are patrons of the library. This leadership has repeatedly ignored the will of the people whom the library is supposed to serve. This slate will commit to respecting the library patrons, the library staff and the citizens of Rockingham.

Now that the renovations of our beautiful Carnegie Library are done, the board needs to work with the Rockingham Selectboard to find a way to eliminate the project deficit over the next few years. The library trustees and the Selectboard should and can work hand in hand to find a fiscally responsible solution. This slate knows and understands the value of a close and harmonious working relationship with the Selectboard.

As we move forward, the library board and all its committees must operate in the clear light of day and not behind closed doors. This slate will ensure that all the library operations are conducted in the open.

Please cast your votes for the unified slate of Doreen Aldrich, David Gould, Carol Blackwood and Ray Massucco. Thank you.

Ray Massucco,

Bellows Falls, Feb. 23

Support for Katz

Editor of the Reformer:

Please join me in supporting Gary Katz for the office of selectman for the town of Newfane. I have known Gary for a number of years and have found him to be a straight-forward person that gets things done. He has good leadership qualities which are needed to help guide Newfane through the upcoming year. He is fiscally responsible and will keep the budget in line. Thanks, and get out and vote on Town Meeting Day.

Larry C. Robinson,

Newfane, Feb. 23

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Editor’s Note: With Town Meeting fast-approaching (March 4), we are aware that many letters in support of a candidate or from candidates will be sent to us. We will run as many as space allows before the election. Please note that support letters will not run after the March 1-2 Weekend Reformer publishes.