Bethlehem Press

Thursday, November 22, 2018
Spagnola Spagnola

County retirees get COLA increase

Tuesday, November 6, 2018 by Bernie O’Hare Special to the Bethlehem Press in Local News

Northampton County’s Retirement Board voted 6-0 at its Oct. 25 meeting to grant a 1.7 percent cost of living increase (COLA) to retirees, effective Jan. 1, 2019. Voting for this increase were McClure, County Council members Ron Heckman and Bill McGee, Fiscal Affairs Director Steve Barron, employee representative Thomas Guth Jr., and retiree representative Gerald E. “Jerry” Seyfried.

It will be the first COLA granted to retirees since John Stoffa was executive.

Under state law, a COLA is currently limited to the increase in the Consumer Price Index for the 12-month period ending Aug. 31, 2018. The board no longer has discretion to award a COLA for prior years.

The COLA will apply to all employees who retired in 2017 or in prior years. It will have no application to employees who retire in 2018.

The amount required to fund this increase is $3,451,553.

Fund manager and former Philadelphia Eagle John Spagnola warned the board that the stock market is undergoing a period of volatility right now. He attributes this to the trade war with China, rising interest rates from the Federal Reserve and the upcoming midterm elections.

The pension fund was at $416 million on Sept. 30, while the OPEB (other post employment benefits) fund was at $42 million.

Spagnola predicts slower growth ahead, saying the economy was on a “sugar high” as a result of the tax cuts

What if the House of Representatives flips? Spagnola said the stock market likes mixed government.