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Duluth chips away at unfunded retiree health care liability

A state auditor's report released Tuesday showed that over the past two years Duluth has made $53 million of progress in its battle to drive down an unfunded liability related to fulfilling the health care obligations it earlier made to city reti...

A state auditor's report released Tuesday showed that over the past two years Duluth has made $53 million of progress in its battle to drive down an unfunded liability related to fulfilling the health care obligations it earlier made to city retirees.

The state now estimates the city faces an unfunded liability of $129 million.

That may sound like a lot of money, but it's a far cry from what Duluth confronted in 2005, when the liability totaled $280 million and was forecast to hit $417 million by 2015.

Mayor Don Ness heralded the city's progress with a written statement Tuesday, saying: "The support of city staff, city unions, city councilors, community leaders and the Minnesota Supreme Court was critical to this success. But the foundation of the effort was a core group of five citizen volunteers serving on a task force (created when I was on the City Council) that provided a 15-point road map to solving what was thought to be an unsolvable problem.

"That volunteer effort is the basis for the significant $288 million in our liability today."

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