The Metro charter calls for the mayor to form a committee to review the benefit structure for Metro employees every five years. This time, there’s a possibility the group’s work could lead to a major change in pension eligibility.
After Mayor Karl Dean names and the Metro Council approves committee members later this year, one of the items they’ll be reviewing and making recommendations on is the length of service required to qualify for Metro’s pension plan. One possibility is reversing the city’s current five-year employment requirement back to a 10-year system.
“I think that’s clearly one issue that would be reviewed,” Metro Finance Director Richard Riebeling said.
For years, Metro required 10 years of service from workers before they could join the pension plan, but the city changed to five years of employment during former Mayor Bill Purcell’s administration.
“I think that five years is probably a short period of time, and perhaps something longer is a little more appropriate,” Riebeling said. “But that’s not really my call t o make. You’ve got the Employee Benefit Board. You’ve got the employees that need to be heard.
“This is a process that takes time,” he said. “The charter says they have a year to complete its work.”
The City Paper approached Riebeling on the topic in mid-February, when Councilman Eric Crafton introduced an ordinance that called for the new 10-year vesting period. Crafton later deferred the bill indefinitely, presumably after learning the proposal is already under consideration.
Crafton said his plan would have only affected new employees. Former Metro employees who already receive pension checks, regardless of their years of service, would still qualify for benefits.
“It’s being proactive,” Crafton said. “To keep our fiscal house in order, we need to do this moving forward. It’s smart. It’s what the private industry does. It’s what other governments are starting to look at.
“These generous pension and benefit packages that governments give out are basically bankrupting cities,” he said.