The day – East Lyme residents asked to comment on the pension fund


East Lyme – The Board of Selectmen plans to codify the informal committee that helped create a fully funded pension scheme in the city.

A public hearing will be held on Wednesday.

First Selectman Kevin Seery said the committee was installed in 2010 by former First Selectman Paul Formica. Since then, the plan’s assets have grown from about $8.3 million to $31.88 million, according to Treasury documents.

“We’re better than 100% funded in our pension program,” he said.

Republican Finance Committee Chairperson Denise Hall, who also serves on the existing retirement committee, said she was the one proposing a formal retirement committee. Official enforcement through a city ordinance reflects the important role the board plays in ensuring the city’s future financial stability.

Hall, who has over 35 years of experience in securities, banking and local finance, served as minority leader on the West Hartford City Council from 2009 to 2017. She described serving on East Lyme’s Pensions Committee as a good way to get involved when she became a full-time resident of the town.

She said West Hartford had “a huge problem” with its pension during her stay, which had fallen from 125% in the early 1990s to under 100% in 2003. After that, the city made all the required contributions, but kept getting ahead and falling behind, according to Hall.

“My feeling was I wanted to make sure East Lyme didn’t make the same mistakes that West Hartford did,” she said.

Some ways cities can go wrong are by not understanding what’s happening in the market, making unrealistic assumptions about how much return they’ll get on their assets, and inaccurately predicting employee life expectancies, she said.

Hall described East Lyme as fortunate to have volunteer committee members and city finance professionals trained in actuarial, investment, banking and securities for the last 10 years.

“The fact that we’re so well funded is rare and a tribute to the work they’ve done,” she said.

Members of the current pension committee are Hall, Robert Curry, Beth Hogan and John Wohler. There is one vacancy.

The draft regulation, which provides for a five-member board, says one member must be a city employee who is part of the pension plan. Seery said the current vacancy will be filled by a union worker.

Hall said the ordinance is the codification of everything the committee has already done.

According to the draft statutes, the first assessors, the finance director and the human resources director are non-voting members.

The ordinance would require the board to make an annual recommendation on how much the city should contribute to the pension fund. It also states that an actuarial review of assets and liabilities should be performed at least every two years.

The Board of Selectmen will vote on accepting the regulation during its regular meeting later Wednesday evening.

The public hearing comes immediately after a city meeting to discuss spending $12,500 to purchase a new pumpout boat for environmental non-profit organization Save the River-Save the Hills, which works to protect the Niantic River and Oswegatchie watershed Hills uses. Officials said the group had applied for grant funding and asked Waterford and East Lyme to split the cost of the matching grant needed.

The city’s original plan to use federal pandemic assistance funds to cover costs was rejected because three-quarters of the boat’s total cost will be covered by a federal grant administered by the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. According to DEEP, the city cannot use federal money to supplement a federal grant.

The city’s share of the boat is now to be covered by the city-wide project line of the capital budget.

The City Assembly, Public Hearing, and regular Board of Selectmen meeting will be held in the City Hall Boardroom beginning at 7:00 p.m

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