Now that state officials have tentatively agreed to chop Hagerstown's $9.9 million pension debt in half, it's time to ask some questions about what happened and what it means.
The debt was created by the 1996 General Assembly, as state pension system officials crafted a bill to keep other local governments (with much higher employee turnover rates) from fleeing the system. It seems clear that those same state officials misled both the delegation and city officials about what the bill's true costs would be.
However, Tim Carey, an actuarial consultant working for the city, says he warned city officials that something like this might happen. City officials say that's not the message they got, but they haven't ruled out the possibility that Carey's warning was couched in the specialized language of his profession, language that didn't raise the alarm for them. Given the previous pension flap of 1981 and the potential for fiscal disaster, shouldn't someone have become an in-house expert on this system?