All told, Syracuse's current bill for retiree healthcare is $1.8 billion, according to E.J. McMahon of the Empire Center.
City taxpayers, though, don’t have to pay that bill today. So city officials – like all other governments in the state facing similar bills – are making minimum payments now and shifting the bulk of the costs to future generations.
In essence, that means government officials are treating the growing healthcare costs for retired cops, teachers, garbage collectors and firefighters like a credit card bill that no one wants to pay off.
Still, that looming debt matters, McMahon said in his annual look at the rising costs of healthcare for retired public workers.
“This is an obligation for Syracuse taxpayers,” McMahon said. If the city went broke – which Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner said could happen within three years – taxpayers would be on the hook for the entire $1.8 billion bill.
That’s more than 7 times the $243 million in debt the city faces now for bridge repairs, athletic fields, snow plows, and sidewalks currently on the books.
Syracuse isn’t alone in its retiree healthcare debt.
Buffalo owes $3.3 billion, nearly $30,000 per household, according to the report. New York City owes $84 billion, or $27,000 per household.
McMahon said he thought Syracuse owes the most per household because it has a larger retired workforce, per capita, getting benefits.
In New York, public employees with 30 years’ service can retire at 55 and receive nearly free health care benefits. Those benefits continue when workers turn 65 as a supplement to Medicare, the healthcare system for the elderly.
Contact Teri Weaver at email@example.com or 470-2274.