The future is here and for some it doesn’t look promising

December 17, 2009
By

A meeting in neighboring Chelsea earlier this week at City Hall drew hundreds of retired city employees and current city employees.

The matter at hand was the city’s need to double the amount retired employees pay towards their city financed health insurance.

Retired employees were outraged that the city was attempting to raise the monthly cost of sustaining their health insurance by doubling it.

This is to say, as one 31 year City Hall veteran put it, “I pay $120 a month as my share for my health insurance. Now it will cost me $240.”

We understand her frustration. But we also understand what it takes to maintain a city budget these days with variable costs for health insurance stripping away most of the city’s ability to sustain them.

In Everett, sustaining the present health insurance payment structure for retirees and current city employees costs the city millions of dollars in yearly increases that are outstripping revenues.

The time will be here shortly – and it has already arrived in neighboring Chelsea – when the city is going to be forced to take a long, hard look at raising contributions for retirees and current city employees in order to maintain health care coverage.

This is a bitter pill to swallow for municipal employees.

However, the reality is such that cities and towns cannot financially sustain relatively rich payment schedules for city employees and city retirees by passing on the heavy rate increases to taxpayers.

With the economic downturn severely impacting free cash balances everywhere in communities throughout the state, the only way to make up the shortfall is for those being insured to contribute a larger amount.

The Board of Aldermen, Common Council and Mayor should convene with all the powers that be — retirees and current employees and their labor representatives — in order to map out a plan for the future.

Mind you, the future does not look promising.

The time is now to discuss the matter and how to deal with it.

Projections must be laid out clearly for the next five years.

The challenge is to stave off the inevitable in the knowledge that the inevitable is as immovable a thing as Mount Everest.