Hagerstown Mayor Steve Sager says he's looking for a "ray of hope" to solve the city's $9.96 million pension problem. What he ought to be looking for is the political equivalent of a big stick, to get the state to acknowledge that it bears some responsibility for this fiasco, and for finding another solution to it.
The proposed solution now would have the city pay back the money over the next 40 years, at an interest rate of 7.5 percent. It would mean a 2-cent increase in the tax rate, and hikes in city utility rates.
Neither of those are likely to force citizens out of their homes, but the issue of unfunded pension liability was addressed in legislation passed in the mid-1980s, which resulted in another multi-year payback plan, a plan the city has adhered to.
According to Peter Vaughn, executive director of the state's retirement agency, "Hagerstown paid what we billed them and they are good customers. But because Hagerstown's demographics are not the same as the total pool, there was an inconsistency in funding in Hagerstown."