Changes loom for Metro employee pensions

Sunday, February 27, 2011 at 10:05pm
Richard Riebeling 

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. 

4 Comments on this post:

By: richgoose on 2/28/11 at 7:27

Sounds like a reasonable proposal.

By: govskeptic on 2/28/11 at 7:54

An audit giving the certified facts on the health and pension
obligations of Metro to current retirees and those soon to
retire should be a must of the Council. Many states, cities
and other governments have been giving out benefits with
either party paying anywhere near the correct amount into
said systems leaving current taxpayers stuck with far greater
obligations than expected. The Citizens of this City deserve
to know what those numbers currently amount to!

By: morpheus120 on 2/28/11 at 10:04

Crafton says: “These generous pension and benefit packages that governments give out are basically bankrupting cities.”

First of all, the government isn't "giving out" pensions and benefits. They are EARNED by the employees who work for the city, just like 401ks and health insurance are earned by private sector employees. In most cases, these benefits were given in lieu of raises.

Second, the pensions are not "bankrupting" the city. They are paid out as people retire, not all at once - just like Social Security. The only way the pension "bankrupts" Metro is if every employee retired at the same time, which is of course, impossible.

Crafton, for a guy whose served so many years as a city government official, you sure have a lot to learn about how city government actually works. Or maybe you know exactly how it works and you're just lying about the pension "crisis" on purpose to get support for your cause or your campaign. That's how conservatives roll these days, so it wouldn't be surprising.

By: pswindle on 2/28/11 at 3:32

This is taking a resonalbe approach, not like the crazy WI governor.