Audit of future retirees' benefit cost raises ire, fear in county

NORWICH – An audit suggesting that Chenango County’s annual post retirement system cost is approaching $7 million per year has raised local lawmakers’ ire and fear.

The Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASBY), contracted by the federal government, reports that the county paid only $1.5 million in medical, dental, and vision benefits for eligible retirees and their spouses in 2008, eventhough an actuarial valuation calculates the ongoing cost to be the much higher figure.

Chenango County Treasurer William E. Evans said the amount was reported “for shock value” only, and was not a surprise to department directors. Pharsalia Supervisor Dennis Brown said he resented “another group of guys, so-called experts, rolling into town to give Chenango County bad news and not letting us do anything about it.”

GASBY regulations prevent counties from creating set aside accounts to fund the liability.

On the other hand, Town of Smyrna Supervisor James B. Bays questioned whether the board should somehow invest in order to afford the future costs. Because Evans will step down after this year, Bays said it would be prudent to glean as much of his 24 years of expertise on how to plan ahead for the exposure.

Preston Supervisor Peter C. Flanagan used the GASBY audit to back up his historical requests for benefit details when budgeting for the departments of highway, recycling, landfill and corrections. He has often noted that the county’s 64 corrections officers will command some of the most expensive post retirement packages in the county, yet their current benefits aren’t reported.

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