AUBURN | A couple million dollars in savings in 2014 sounds attractive to any municipality in New York, especially in the midst of tough economic times.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, in his budget proposal, announced his idea for a Stable Rate Pension Contribution Option, which would let municipalities (counties, cities, towns, villages and school districts) voluntarily lock into a fixed rate of the percentage they contribute to state-mandated employee pension accounts.
"Under the plan, localities are given the option for a stable pension contribution rate that significantly reduces near-term payments but still keeps the pension systems fully funded over the long term," stated a press release from Cuomo's office. "Local governments who opt in would avoid significant volatility in contribution rates and be better able to plan for the future."
The governor's office released its projections on Friday of how much cities and counties in New York state could save in fiscal year 2014 and in the next five years under the plan.
Cuomo predicted the city of Auburn could save $1.8 million for fiscal year 2014 and $6.5 million over the next five years.
He predicted Cayuga County could save $3.4 million in 2014 and $11.9 million over the next five years.
City Manager Douglas Selby said there are still questions that need to be answered about the Stable Rate Pension Contribution Option. He wants to know how long municipalities would be locked into the fixed pension contribution rate, and he also wants to know if they can opt out without penalty before the end of the agreement.
"We're looking into it," he said. "We just have to do some forecasting."
Cayuga County Administrator Thomas Squires also expressed hesitance to jump in without first doing some homework. He said if retirement costs go back down, he doesn't want the county to be stuck at a higher fixed rate.
"You take a gamble," he said. "I don't want to get stuck paying more. I don't want to miss a deal either. ... I am skeptical any time New York state says they've got a great deal."