The City Council this week voted 4 to 1 to approve an amendment to a retirement contract for the city's police officers and lifeguards that will cost $318,000 in fiscal 1994.
The amendment allows employees to become eligible for retirement at age 50 instead of 55 and increase their contribution to the retirement fund from 7% of their current salary to 9%. The agreement came after extensive contract negotiations that took place in 1989, city officials said.
Mayor Joseph Anderson said the city, which faces a $2.5-million budget deficit next year, was "contractually committed" to approving the amendment to the retirement package.
"It's important to reiterate how long and hard we discussed this issue," said Councilwoman Candace Haggard. "It was not an easy or painless negotiation and not something that we did light-heartedly. It's extremely expensive to retrain new staff."
Councilman Scott Diehl said the benefits package will help keep good employees.
"I can assure you that good people can always make changes," Diehl said. "We went through a lot of turmoil and turnover. We count on our employees to cover us through these tough times. While this is an expensive benefit, it has made us competitive."
Councilman Thomas Lorch voted against the change in the retirement package. He said the city had failed to come up with an acceptable strategy to pay for the package when it was originally approved.
"I think we need to connect better in the negotiating room, " Lorch said.