About two months after Mayor Scott Avedisian vetoed an ordinance requesting that the health care and pension actuaries appear before the City Council, Ward 9 Councilman Steven Merolla added two amendments to the legislation and presented them before the council last Wednesday.
The amendments involve the addition of a line item in the budget to fund the visit, as well as language that says the actuaries should appear before the council when they are in Rhode Island.
“Those two items were not in the last ordinance that we put forth and people raised concerns that they should have been,” Merolla said. “It passed the council [but] the mayor vetoed the ordinance and we didn’t have six votes to override the veto, so I was hoping with this added language that it would appease everybody.”
Apparently, it did, as it was approved on a 6-3 vote, with Ward 1 Councilman Steven Colantuono, Ward 6 Councilwoman Donna Travis and Ward 8 Councilman Ray Gallucci voting in opposition.
The point of having the actuaries appear, Merolla said, is to advise and inform the council of the state of annual contributions needed to fund health care for retirees, as well as the amount of contributions that should be made each year to establish a financially acceptable fund to pay for retiree pensions and health care insurance.
In September, Avedisian sent a letter to the Warwick Beacon explaining that he vetoed the ordinance because it lacked a fiscal note or a defined funding source.
Avedisian wrote that when representatives from Jefferson Solutions, Inc., a company that assists government and municipal employers in getting answers to issues that impact accounting standards, visited Warwick in 2011, they recommended the city continue its current practice of funding retiree health care costs in the annual budget.
“The mayor was concerned about what line item that this would come from,” Merolla said Wednesday. “As you recall, I didn’t hear that argument last year when they appeared, but this year it was raised. I think that it’s important that every council have the opportunity to listen to those actuaries to give us information.”
Ward 4 Councilman Joseph Solomon felt the same. He commended Merolla for putting forth the ordinance.
“I am firmly of the belief that the more tools we have dealing with this matter, the better we can handle it, address it and mitigate the negative fallout,” he said. “Again, we want to be proactive in our approach, rather than reactive to something that is collapsing. This legislation is good.”
Ward 3 Councilwoman Camille Vella-Wilkinson agreed. As she walked her ward during the election, she said it was not unusual for constituents to ask her what became of the ordinance.
Further, she encouraged her fellow council members to vote in favor of the ordinance despite the fact that three of them did not seek re-election and will not be on the council in the future, as their terms will wrap up at the end of the year. They include Council President Bruce Place, Ward 5 Councilman John DelGiudice, and Ward 8 Councilman Ray Gallucci. As noted, Gallucci voted in opposition.