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Moline seeks reform in pension system

New York lawmakers should require new municipal employees to contribute to the state's retirement plan and work at least 20 years before qualifying for a pension, Town of Tonawanda Supervisor Ronald H. Moline said Friday in his state of the town address.

The town has had to raise taxes slightly and use reserves to balance the budget the past two years, primarily because of the rising costs of health insurance and contributions to the state pension system, Moline said at a luncheon meeting in the Holiday Inn Buffalo on Niagara Falls Boulevard in Amherst.

Contributions to the state pension fund in 2006 are estimated at $4.8 million, or 6 percent of the town's $75.1 million budget.

Costs for health insurance for employees and retirees were pegged at $8.5 million, or 11 percent of the 2006 budget.

"Meaningful reform is needed in the state pension systems in order to reduce this burden for taxpayers," said Moline. "At a minimum, the state legislature should consider creating a new membership tier that requires new employees, including police officers, to contribute to their pensions and work a minimum of 20 years in order to qualify for a pension."

The address was the first by the Republican supervisor since Democrats gained a 5-2 majority on the Town Board in last November's elections.

Moline did not discuss the board's approval in February of a plan to reduce the size of the board from six to four members and to limit board members and the supervisor to three elected terms.

Moline opposes both plans.

The supervisor highlighted several statistics from 2005:

* The town police department responded to 69,146 calls for assistance, including 6,158 paramedic calls and 2,118 calls for volunteer firefighters;

* The town court processed 29,365 cases and collected $1.9 million in fees and fines -- more than $1.3 million of which came back to the town.

* Nearly 9,000 tons of materials -- about a quarter of the town's total waste -- were recycled through curbside collection.

Moline also outlined plans in 2006 to upgrade ball diamonds at Sheridan Park, expand the town's On-Line Tax Access and Internet mapping system, and develop an electronic document management system.

e-mail: citydesk@buffnews.com

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