ALBANY - Local taxpayers in Warren, Hamilton and Essex counties will save many millions of dollars in the coming years after pending pension reforms take effect, according to figures state officials provided this week.
Future personnel costs of local municipalities and school districts will be substantially reduced due to pension reform Gov. David Paterson signed into law Thursday, according to calculations by state officials.
For Warren County government, taxpayers will save an estimated $26.4 million over the next 30 years, due to the reform. For small school districts in Warren County, savings are in the $5 to $9 million range.
For Warrensburg Central School District, this pension reform savings over the next 30 years is estimated to be $8.9 million, and for the town of Chester, the savings is projected at $3.4 million. For the town of Warrensburg, taxpayers are expected to save $715,000. Similar savings are expected over that time period for other area school districts and municipalities. Savings to Lake George School District is expected to be $8.7 million over the three coming decades, according to the state Office of the Budget.
"In order to get our fiscal house in order, Albany must make fundamental reforms to the way it spends money," Paterson said in announcing the reform measures. "This is the first substantive pension reform in a quarter century, and it is another critical step toward making our government more accountable to taxpayers."
Under the new Tier V Reform plan, which was passed last week as part of the state Deficit Reduction Plan, newly hired public employees will be subject to a significantly less generous pension package and be required to chip in more toward their retirement. Yet-to-be-hired employees will be required to work longer before accessing their benefits and the minimum age of retirement will be raised from 55 to 62.
According to the state Office of the Budget, New York will save in excess of $1 billion annually over the next 30 years.
Paterson is calling the Tier V law the most significant attempt at reining in statewide property taxes in decades.
According to the Budget Office, Essex County stands to save $14.2 million over the next 30 years, and Hamilton County, $3.1 million.
North Warren Central School District taxpayers are expected to save $5.7 million, and the town of Horicon, $407,847. The town of Lake George is expected to save $1.1 million, and the village of Lake George, $568,000.
Taxpayers in the Johnsburg Central School District are projected to save $4 million, and town residents, $574,477.
Local state Sen. Betty Little, who has been calling for local municipal relief for years, supported the measure and Thursday she applauded Paterson's efforts.
"This is a sensible and necessary change," Little said. "The impact is two-fold, saving taxpayers an estimated $35 billion over the next 30 years while ensuring that the pension system remains solvent in the future."
New York State Association of Towns Executive Director Jeff Haber said that the Tier V reform is a "huge step" in easing the burden on local governments, which are faced with skyrocketing retirement and medical insurance costs.
"The Association of Towns applauds Governor Paterson's actions in proposing and enacting Tier V. For the first time in decades, legislation could actually reduce current local pension bills, and will definitely provide significant long-term savings and property tax relief," Haber said.
The association is often critical of the state for overburdening local governments with costly mandates.
The legislation also tightens the reins on teacher's pensions, raising the retirement age two years to 57 and increasing the personal contribution from 3 to 3.5 percent.
The Tier V legislation excludes municipal employees in New York City.
The largest municipal savings will surface once the current generation of public employees has retired and they are replaced by employees who are subject the new system.
Journal Editor Thom Randall contributed to this report.