Archive for Thursday, February 8, 2007

City council moves to bolster pension plans

February 8, 2007

Baldwin City employees moved a step closer to additional retirement help from the city when the city council approved an addition to the current program for second reading. The measure will likely pass at the next meeting.

Currently, all city employees participate in the Kansas Public Employee Retirement System (KPERS), with the exception of police and firefighters. The city council voted in December to switch those employees to the Kansas Police and Fire Employees Retirement System (KP&F) as a tool to attract and retain those employees.

Many other cities have also moved to KP&F plan for police and fire and it has become an advantage for those. KP&F funnels more money into retirement. When the council made that move, they also directed city staff to find an additional means to boost retirement for other city employees. Most other cities don't do that.

"When the earlier resolution was passed, it was the desire of the council that we continue to pursue an additional retirement benefit for all of our non-police and fire personnel," said City Administrator Jeff Dingman. "We've come up with a 401a defined contribution pension plan that is available only to KPERS employees, not KP&F employees, that will match the employee's individual contributions to a 457 deferred compensation retirement account dollar for dollar up to 4 percent of his or her salary.

"This benefit will be in addition to the 9.13 percent total contributions to KPERS for participating in the program," said Dingman. "Additionally, these monies and any earnings from them belong to the employee, assuming they are vested, and are portable to the individual. KPERS and KP&F monies are nowhere near as flexible. A chief goal of this program is to encourage our employees to save for their retirement. Few employers -- public or private -- offer a dollar for dollar match."

Under the KP&F plan, police and fire personnel contribute 7 percent of their salary to the program and the city contributes a percentage determined by the state, which is generally 13 percent, he said. The differences in percentages, despite the additional benefit being offered, troubled some city employees. Around 15 were on hand for Monday's meeting.

"Is there a reason you can't put the same into ours as you are the police and fire?" said Dick Anderson, a city employee and one-time member of the police department. "That's why we're here. We want to be treated equally. We just want to know we can't have as much."

"This is it," said Mayor Gary Walbridge. "Hopefully, it will get better."

Council President Amy Cleavinger said future contributions will depend on how many employees take advantage of the plans.

"Until we get a feel for what kind of participation we're going to have, we can't answer that," said Cleavinger. "We surveyed a lot of cities. A lot of cities don't offer anything."

"I also think this is a strong step forward to offer this," said Walbridge.

Anderson then expressed thanks. Other employees thanked the council after the meeting, too.

"We appreciate it," Anderson said to the council. "We appreciate what you're offering. We just want to be treated equal."

That continued the discussion.

"This city has excellent employees," said Walbridge. "This town is in pretty damn good shape. It's nothing I've done, it's what the staff has done. We will continue to improve it."

"We could have chosen not to do anything else," said Cleavinger. "We could have gone that route and didn't."

"If this is the best you can do, we'll be glad to take it," said Anderson.

It was again brought up that the city won't know how much the additional program will cost until employees sign up for it. That could change contributions.

"That's the challenge we have -- what kind of participation we'll have," said Cleavinger,

"This is not about 'them' and 'you,' this is about us," Walbridge said to Anderson.

"Will you be better off than you were a year ago?" Cleavinger asked Anderson.

"Well, yeah," said Anderson.

"We're going to try and take care of you," said Walbridge.

The ordinance was then passed on first reading to second reading.

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