Vermont Republican state Sen. Bill Doyle plans to introduce legislation soon that would strip the $88 million Vermont Municipal Employees' Retirement System from the treasurer's books and transfer it to another authority.
The main reason? To distance the 116% funded system from the Legislature so it can't use the fund's assets to balance the state budget. In fiscal years 1995 and 1996, the Legislature took about $13,000 from the municipal system to do just that.
Several trustees were furious with the state's action. Contributions come from participating municipalities, so the state makes no contribution to the system; yet the Legislature dipped into the municipal system's coffers when it needed the extra cash to balance the budget, said Steve Jeffrey, a board member and executive director of the Vermont League of Cities and Towns. And while $13,000 might seem like pocket change, many board members still considered it outright thievery.
The fund now is sponsored by 346 municipalities and covers 3,985 employees and 630 retirees. The legislation would create a five-member board that would assume responsibility for the fund July 1.
State Treasurer Jim Douglas, who supports the legislation, said no specific authority has been named in the legislation, because the state plans to bid out the job.
The Vermont League of Cities and Towns is one of the authorities interested in taking over the municipal fund. The league might be a good fit because it already operates pooled insurance programs for several municipalities.