State legislature to hear testimony on pension costs Friday

The state legislature will hear testimony Friday, March 1, on the governor’s proposed budget, which could push more costs for the state’s teacher pension plan onto Ridgefield taxpayers.
The budget, HB 7150, would push 25% of a town’s teacher pension obligation onto the municipality in “non-distressed” communities. Those towns would also be responsible for an additional percentage, based on the percentage they pay their full-time teachers above the statewide median.
The statewide median income for teachers is about $78,000, according to reporting in the CT Post.
That same day, the legislature’s Education Committee will also hear testimony regarding three bills that would regionalize school districts, beginning at 10 a.m.
Margaret Stamatis, chairwoman of the Ridgefield Board of Education, said that she plans to attend that hearing but may not be able to stay long enough to speak.
She said Ridgefield’s board plans to submit written testimony in opposition to both the pension proposal and the bills that would regionalize schools.
“This is now the second governor to propose shifting responsibility of teacher pensions to local municipalities,” said Superintendent Dr. William Collins at the board’s Feb. 25 meeting.
“There are a couple of things that are problematic,” he added. “One is the shift of — it’s almost $500,000 over to the district. We don’t have that kind of money. The second is that ... they’re essentially putting a fee, if you will, onto districts that are doing well. So if you are paying your teachers well ... they will penalize you for it.”
He said that will put the district between paying teachers competitively to “attract the best and brightest,” and avoiding the penalty from the state pension costs.
Stamatis said that if the plan is approved, the pension cost would be around $458,602 next year, and $947,000 the year after.
Ultimately, the board did not add to its budget request for the 2019-20 school year in case the proposal goes through.