Fiscal iceberg awaits Rhode Island cities and towns

Editor’s note: This is the first of a four-part series exploring how well Rhode Island cities and towns are funding municipal pension and benefit plans and the public-policy ramifications.

The financial challenges of taking care of her daughter, Miranda Rose, who has Down syndrome, have grown for Linda M. Connell since 2011. That’s when Providence stopped increasing pension payments based on yearly cost-of-living adjustments.

The widow of James F. Connell, who retired as a sergeant of the Providence Police Department and died earlier this year, told a Rhode Island Superior Court judge on April 21 that the costs associated with caring for her husband and Miranda soared in recent years.

“The fact that Miranda and I will no longer have the opportunity to receive the COLA will greatly affect us,” said Connell, who now lives in Port Saint Lucie, Fla.

After an emotional Connell stepped down from the witness stand, former Providence Mayor Angel Taveras took her place and defended his 2011 decision to change the city’s pension and health care system. His reform – which was negotiated with unions representing current employees as well as ad hoc groups of retirees – froze all cost-of-living adjustments for a decade, eliminated 5-6 percent increases entirely and moved all retirees age 65 and older to Medicare. Some of those retirees are challenging the settlement terms.

Read the original story on Providence Business News here.

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