Winter Park employees won’t have their retirement plans cut as much as originally intended, after a last-minute modification to the budget saved some pain for those hoping to contribute more to their retirement.
And for the 57th year in a row, city commissioner salaries were frozen.
The City Commission on Monday night voted to approve a plan that would automatically contribute 7 percent of employee pay toward the city’s retirement plan if employees contribute a standard 3 percent of their paychecks.
Commissioner Beth Dillaha argued that employees should pay the same as the city, which gets its funding from taxpayers.
“When the taxpayer is contributing three times the amount the employee has to contribute, that’s when I have a problem with it,” Dillaha said. “I think the contribution should be the same. If we went with a 5/5 plan, it would save the city $754,000, and we could increase that percentage when the economy recovers.”
During that same meeting, City Manager Randy Knight said the city’s retirement plan contributions ranked 13th out of 15 local cities with populations greater than 10,000.
Commissioner Carolyn Cooper said that reducing retirement contributions would have to happen sooner or later, as a consequence of future retirement plan problems faced by many cities, including Winter Park.
“Sooner or later we’re going to have to start laying people off,” Cooper said, pointing toward the potential for future layoffs if the city can’t trim enough from retirement plan funding.
“We either all do this together or some will do it alone.”
Cooper said that despite the city’s low contributions compared to other local cities that it still provided benefits that were better than that found in the private sector.
“In the business world, there is nothing close to this level,” Cooper said.
But even after the Commission agreed to move to a 3 and 7 percent matching contribution, it still struck employees and former mayor Joe Terranova as unfair during a meeting in which the Commission discussed raising commissioners’ salaries.
“The argument falls apart when the Commission says they want to cut salaries by 2.5 percent but they want to increase their own,” Terranova said.
No pay hike for Commission
Later in that same meeting, a list of budget amendments failed on only one item — commissioner salaries.
The Commission has received the same pay for 57 years — $200 per month.
“These city commissioners are the least paid of any city around,” resident Sally Flynn said. “Other cities, they’re paid $16,000 to $20,000 (per year). It’s high time the city paid their commissioners more than they did in 1953.”
Dillaha said that the low pay made serving on the Commission not only prohibitive economically, but by age. With the time commitment making the job nearly full time for many members, it becomes prohibitive to many younger working adults, she said.
“This is keeping a lot of people from running,” she said. “A board member said to me ‘I can’t even afford a babysitter for $200 a month.’”
But others countered that it would be irresponsible to raise commissioner salaries while cutting jobs or pensions for other employees.
“I don’t think we should be doing this when the police and firefighters are losing some of their pension,” Mayor Ken Bradley said.
The budget amendments as a whole passed after a Commission pay raise was removed. The budget is not yet finalized and will be discussed further at the Sept. 27 Commission meeting.