Cranston planning pensions talks with retired fire and police

PROVIDENCE, RI – A group that lobbies for cities and towns is applauding talks aimed at resolving a looming pension crisis in Cranston. Cranston Mayor Allan Fung is planning to sit down with a group of retired firefighters and police officers.

Rhode Island League of Cities and Towns head Daniel Beardsley says he's happy Cranston city leaders and retirees have agreed to meet. Cranston's pension plan for police and firefighters hired before 1995 has less than 20 percent of the money needed to meet its long-term obligations. Beardsley says recent funding problems for state and local managed pensions have set the stage for talks.

"Public employees seem to be more reasonable at this particular point in time, and both sides may be coming to an agreement -- which sends a strong message statewide that these type of difficult economic issues should be negotiated rather than litigated."

But he says talks aren't always a practical solution for underfunded local pension plans. "Not all public employees are willing to come to the table, and if they are not willing to come to the table, then outside intervention is absolutely necessary."

About one-third of the 36 locally managed municipal pensions across the state are severely under-funded.

Negotiations in Providence led to an agreement on reducing pension costs in that city.

Beardsley adds getting legislative help for under-funded local pension plans will be a tough sell in the General Assembly session starting in January.

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