SARANAC LAKE - If New York Gov. David Paterson's calculations are correct, local municipalities and school districts could save big in the years to come due to pension reform he signed into law Dec. 10.
Paterson says that in order to get the state's fiscal house in order, Albany must make fundamental reforms to the way it spends money.
"Tier V is the first substantive pension reform in a quarter century, and is another critical step toward making our government more accountable to taxpayers," Governor Paterson said.
Under the new Tier V plan, which was passed last week as part of the state Deficit Reduction Plan, new hire public employees will be subject to a significantly less generous pension package and be required to chip in more towards their own retirements.
Yet-to-be-hired employees will be required to work longer before accessing their benefits and it increases the minimum age of non-penalized retirement from 55 to 62.
According to the state Office of the Budget, New York will save more than $35 billion over the next three decades because of the pension reform.
Paterson is calling the Tier V law the most significant attempt at reigning in statewide property taxes in decades.
According to the Budget Office, Essex County stands to save $14.2 million over the next 30 years, while Franklin County could save $14.1 million.
The villages of Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake both stand to save around $2 million, while Lake Placid could see nearly $3 million in cost reductions.
Local state Sen. Betty Little, who has been calling for local municipal relief for years, supported the legislation and applauds 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 thirty 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, who are typically 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 reigns on teacher's pensions, raising the retirement age two years to 57 and increasing the personal contribution from 3 to 3.5 percent.
The budget office predicts a 30-year savings of $13.8 million for the Saranac Lake Central School District and $7.9 million for Lake Placid.
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 are replaced by employees who are subject to the new pension system.