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DFS City Council holds off on raise to cover retirement contributions

Jun 16th, 2011 | 0

By ASHLEY AMASON

Effective July 1, 2011 state employees will no longer have a non-contributory retirement plan under the Florida Retirement System. Employees will take a 3-percent reduction in salary to contribute to their retirement fund. City of DeFuniak Springs Finance Director Sara   Bowers referenced the hardship a 3- percent salary cut could have on lower-income city employees, specifically those making less than $50,000 per year. In a memo to the Council, Bowers stated, “As you can see, the rate imposed on the city will decrease by more than the 3 [percent] imposed on the employee. Therefore, staff respectfully requests the City Council to assist the affected employees by granting a 3 [percent] rate of pay increase to those making at least $50,000 or less in regular pay.”

Councilman Kermit Wright asked Bowers how firm she was on the $50,000 salary, noting “[That] sounds high to me.” Wright suggested $30,000. Bowers reported of 103 city employees, 61 earn less than $30,000 per year. For an employee earning $30,000 per year, a 3-percent cut is a loss of $900 per year, $75 per month.

Under the Florida Retirement System prior to Senate Bill 2100 which changes contribution percentages, the city contributed 100 percent of the current rates for employees’ retirement.  Prior to July 1, 2011 those rates are: 10.77 percent for regular employees, 23.25 percent for special risk employees, 18.64 percent for city, county and special district elected officers, 14.57 percent for senior management, 12.25 percent for DROP employees, and 1.84 percent for retirees initially reemployed.

Rates after July 1 are: 4.91 percent for regular employees, 14.10 percent for special risk employees, 11.14 percent for city, county and special district elected officials, 6.27 percent for senior management, 4.42 percent for DROP employees, and 1.84 percent for retirees initially reemployed.

The new rates save the city 5.86 percent to 9.15 percent in retirement contributions.

Councilman Wayne Graham said he would not support asking the citizens of DeFuniak Springs to pay for city employees’ retirement.

J.B. Hillard, a retired federal employee, said he contributed to his retirement his entire career and was “absolutely opposed” to citizens paying employees’ retirement.

City Marshal Mark Weeks told the Council, “I think [the raise] is a great idea…in our case, a contract has been broken by the state…and it is penalizing hard working folks….” Weeks noted citizens’ tax dollars have been paying for state employees’ salaries and retirement contributions for nearly 40 years. “It’s a fair deal to split the savings,” he said.

Hillard warned of more difficult budget cycles in coming years. He predicted to maintain the millage rate the city would “have to do some cutting.”

Councilman Mac Work answered, “We’re planning on it.”

Planning board member Lee Thomas declared, “You’re going to save 3 percent even if you give the 3-percent raise…there’s a point where people can’t make the rent, or buy gas, or kids’ clothes.”

Interim City Manager Bill Holloway added, “Employees are our biggest asset. They need this break.”

Duane Hicks suggest looking at the lowest paid employees, those earning less than $25,000 or $20,000 per year for a 3-percent raise rather than a blanket denial.

Graham said, “Giving more money where we don’t have it is a huge step backward.” Work agreed, adding “I don’t want to give them something and take it back at budget year [Oct. 1, 2011].” Bowers confirmed it was a possibility that the raise would not be feasible in the upcoming fiscal year.

The Council tabled the item until the Oct. 1 budget cycle.

Walton County School District employee Janie Griffith distributed an article from the Florida Bar Journal regarding “networking sites and Florida’s Public Records Law” in light of the Council’s recent decision to set-up a city Facebook page. Griffith warned of possible violations of Sunshine Law. The article stated “social networking mediums could lose public records because the post is deleted by forces outside of the agency’s control…[therefore] could technically violate the Public Records Law…”  The city’s Facebook page is not yet in operation.

Joel Glenn of Clary-Glenn Funeral Homes sought the Council’s “comfort level” with rezoning the site of his business on Park Avenue to either a C-1 district or agricultural district to allow for a crematorium on-site. “We would have the best crematory in the area,” he said. City Attorney Clayton Adkinson recommended Glenn approach the planning board for a zoning variance before coming to the Council, clarifying they could not take any action because his request was a discussion item. Glenn answered he had previously paid the $1,200 fee for a variance request and received the planning board’s approval with “flying colors” only to be denied by the Council due to the “applause meter.”

The Council directed Glenn back to the planning board, emphasizing his request would receive a “fresh shot.”

James Dabney received unanimous approval to sell fireworks June 20-July 4 on U.S. 331 South.

Nolan Baker’s request to discuss the community development block grant (CDBG) application spun into a discussion of whether or not to maintain continuing contracts. With CDG Engineers & Associates of Defuniak Springs, Baker said the city was eligible to receive up to $700,000 of grant funds at no cost to the city….

Read the full story in the June 16, 2011 edition of the Herald Breeze.

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