ARC: Fully funded but possibly illegal
Trumbull Town Treasurer Anthony Musto and the Town Council majority have a difference of opinion when it comes to funding the town’s pension plans for municipal workers and police officers.
Following a resolution that was passed at the council’s meeting Monday, March 7, Musto told The Times that the ordinance may not be legal.
“The ordinance mandates that the first selectman abdicate his responsibility to make a decision about the budget and instead must use an amount determined by an unelected, un-appointed financial adviser,” Musto said. “Then the rights of the Board of Finance and the Town Council to make any changes are limited beyond what they are in the Charter."
“This ordinance is illegal because it changes the way the town creates a budget as delineated in the charter,” he added. “The voters rejected this mandate already and the council shouldn’t try to override that vote. If full funding is a good idea, just do it -— don’t hide behind an illegal ordinance that the people oppose.”
The Annual Required Contributions (ARC) funding issue was part of the 2014 charter revision referendum in 2014 and was rejected by the voters 6,652 to 5,128.
“The first selectman, Board of Finance and Town Council were elected to make these decisions annually based upon the needs of the town at the time, and the Charter’s procedure ensures that all relevant, independently elected officials do their jobs,” Musto explained. “This ordinance violates those basic principles.”
In the public comments portion of the Town Council meeting, former Democratic Town Council member Vicki Tesoro was also critical of the resolution.
“In 2014, the Charter Revision Commission and the Town Council proposed to amend our charter to mandate Annual Required Contribution (ARC) funding, in essence, placing this priority above all other town needs,” she said. “After numerous public hearings and town discussions over several months, the voters overwhelmingly rejected this idea, 56% to 44%.
“The people voted no just 16 months ago to this question, essentially the same question as the resolution before you this evening,” she added. “The will of the people is clear. They understand that future first selectmen, Board of Finance and Town Councils need the flexibility to set their priorities and react to conditions that can’t be foreseen today.
“No one has a crystal ball; however, we can say with certainty that the markets will decline again, driving up the ARC funding when our residents can least afford it. The potential risk to our community is substantial and real.”
Tesoro, whose words failed to turn the opinions of the 10 council members who approved the resolution, told the room that “the Town Council cannot ignore the will of the people.”
“The people voted no, and so should you,” she said.
Three Republican members joined the four Democrats in attendance to vote against the resolution; however, ultimately, the roll call vote was 10-7 in favor of approving a fully funded pension plan.
Those in favor of the resolution were council members Donna Seidell, Richard Kascak Jr., Edna Colucci, Carl Massaro, Lori Rosasco Schwartz, Mark Block, Rick Costantini, Mark Eclair, Joe Pifko, and Mark Caron.
Democrats Bill Mecca, Dawn Cantafio, Tom Whitmoyer, and Mary Beth Thornton were joined by Republicans Tony Scinto, Mike London, and Ann Marie Evangelista in voting against the ordinance.