News Feature

Augusta
Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, July 31, 2014
Kumiega submits bill restoring state funding for teacher retirement

Rep. Walter Kumiega (D-Deer Isle) has submitted a bill to restore full state responsibility for paying into the teacher retirement system.

In 2013, some of that responsibility was passed on to the towns as part of a bipartisan compromise budget.

“For generations, the state had paid the full employer share of teacher retirement costs, and it was working well,” said Kumiega in a press release. “But shifting costs to cities and towns is hurting local budgets and further burdening property taxpayers. Plus, the funding formula the state is using for retirement costs especially shortchanges our small island communities.”

“State government has mechanisms to raise revenue based on ability to pay and can shoulder and disburse Maine’s tax burden in ways that cities and towns cannot. Requiring towns to pay for teacher retirement costs will put a greater burden on already-struggling schools. In order to meet the new costs, they will be forced to make layoffs, cut programs, cut vital services in other parts of local government or all of the above,” the news release states.

The release continued, “Concessions that had to be made to gain Republican support for recent budgets have made it much harder for both municipalities and the state to balance their books. As a result, seniors, others on fixed incomes and working families have all suffered.”

“Continuing this cost shift to property taxpayers is not in the best interest of teachers or residents,” said Kumiega. “We cannot continue to balance the state budget on the backs of property taxpayers.”

Kumiega, the House chairman of the Legislature’s Marine Resources Committee, is serving his second term and represents the towns of Brooklin, Deer Isle, Frenchboro, Isle au Haut, part of Mount Desert, North Haven, Stonington, Swan’s Island, Tremont and Vinalhaven.