PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) - R.I. Superior Court Judge Sarah Taft-Carter on Friday approved a timeline for Providence police and fire retirees to opt out of a settlement on pensions and healthcare benefits negotiated with the city.
Under the plan, public safety retirees will have until Mar. 1 to object to the tentative settlement and until Apr. 1 to opt out of the deal.
The pension agreement was struck last year after Mayor Angel Taveras warned that the city could go bankrupt if it couldn't win significant concessions from the retirees and several public employee unions. The deal allows the city to cap all pensions, suspend cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) for 11 years and eliminate 5% and 6% compounded COLAs for good while also moving retirees to Medicare.
Taft-Carter's approval of the timeline means the city will have until Jan. 29 to mail every retiree information about the opt-out deadline. By Feb. 5, the city will run a $10,000 ad in the Providence Journal doing the same.
The city originally agreed to run a similar ad in the USA Today, but Taft-Carter deemed the advertisement unnecessary after city lawyer William M. Dolan III explained that only 13 of the 1,376 retirees have not already been reached by mail. Dolan said the cost of running the ad in the national paper would have been $176,000.
After a "fairness hearing," on Mar. 5, the city will send another mailing to every retiree. Taft-Carter set a final settlement hearing for Apr. 12, at which time deal will be complete. The City Council will have until that hearing to approve several changes to its pension ordinance, which was passed last year.
Taft-Carter's ruling was met with objections from approximately 12 retirees who were hoping the judge would extend the deadline for retirees to opt out. Stephen Day, a retired firefighter and outspoken critic of the pension settlement, said he is aware of "at least 50 individuals" who want to object to the deal.
Joseph Penza, the lawyer for the Providence Retired Police and Firefighters Association, told WPRI.com earlier this week that he expects "as few as 50 and as many as 150 retirees" to opt out of the final deal.
Ted Nesi contributed to this report.