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Honesdale opposes proposed pension funding legislation

By Linda Drollinger
July 16, 2014

HONESDALE, PA — At its July 14 monthly meeting, Honesdale Borough Council grappled with one issue that it shares with municipalities nationwide and several that are peculiar to Honesdale.

By unanimous vote, the council passed a resolution declaring its opposition to Pennsylvania House Bill 1708 (HB1708), which seeks to amend the Municipal Pension Plan Funding Standard and Recovery Act (Act 205 of 1984). A memo from the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Mike Tobash, summarizes the bill’s intent: “to provide that up to 0.5% of the General Municipal Pension System State Aid Program amount may be paid to the Public Employee Retirement Commission (Commission) as specifically appropriated by the General Assembly to provide for its costs in oversight and administration of the municipal pension system.”

Borough finance committee chair Scott Smith introduced the resolution, informing the council that the proposed legislation would negatively impact the borough, necessitating a tax raise to accommodate the resulting higher cost to the borough. The proposed legislation, currently before the Pennsylvania legislature, is one state’s response to the challenge that all states are facing as they struggle to meet soaring municipal pension fund costs.

The council also passed a resolution to pay $6,166 to the attorney who represented former and current councilmembers appealing their conviction for violation of the state’s Sunshine Law. Councilmember Bob Jennings introduced the resolution, advising the council that the attorney’s bill had been submitted to the council for payment and that it should be paid quickly. Smith interjected that council’s liability insurance was expected to cover the councilmembers’ appeal costs in full and suggested that the council submit the attorney’s bill to the insurer. Jennings disagreed with that approach, noting that it could take weeks for the insurer to review the case and that the attorney deserved timely payment for his services. It was decided that the council would pay the attorney fees outright and accept the insurance money as reimbursement. The resolution was passed, with five members voting in favor and two (Daniel Barnes and Bill Canfield) abstaining. When convicted, the councilmembers were fined $100 each, but the convictions were overturned on appeal.