Despite being met with opposition Monday, the Powder Springs City Council voted to raise the retirement for council members from $40 to $48 per month for every year of service.
That means an eight-year member, for example, will now receive $384 a month after leaving the city instead of $320.
Noting that elected officials in smaller cities aren’t paid that well, City Manager Rick Eckert said he has “always been in favor of a reasonable retirement.”
The benefit, done through the Georgia Municipal Association’s retirement fund, is for council members who serve at least eight years and isn't retroactive to those already retired.
Councilwoman Cheryl Sarvis was absent and Councilwoman Nancy Hudson was opposed, making the final tally 3-1.
The city will be paying GMA for the retirement increase with contingency funding left over from last year's budget. The increase will initially cost about $4,700 annually, with a 30-year amortization.
Councilman Tom Bevirt, was Monday, will be the first to receive the new pension. His 12 years of service will result in $576 a month in retirement; without Monday’s vote, he would have received about $100 less.
If she retired in 2016 at the completion of her upcoming term, Mayor Pat Vaughn, who started as a councilwoman in 1996, will get $960 a month under the new plan. Previously, she would have received $800.
Monday’s council retirement raise coincided with a budget amendment that will give bonuses to city employees: $500 for those starting work before January, $100 for January to July, and $50 for July to December.
Hudson said permanently raising the council’s retirement while only giving city employees a one-time bonus was a “disservice.” The employees are on their fourth year without raises.
“It’s been four or five years since I’ve had a raise,” she said of her job outside the council, “but yet the upper people where I work get them and I don’t.”
The council retirement increase will “cause bad feelings,” Hudson said.
"I know how that feels, when you’re out there working day after day after day and other people get” financially rewarded, she said.
But Eckert said he hopes to make the city bonuses an annual payout, and that he’s looking at possible raises in July.
Also voicing their opposition on Monday were two public commenters: former Councilman Ra Barr and his wife, Barbara.
Speaking first, Barbara Barr said she disagreed with Eckert’s comment about council members not getting paid well. They receive $12,000 annually, while the mayor gets $18,000.
She said that between work sessions, legislative meetings and preparation for both, council members work an estimated average of 26 hours a month for an hourly rate of $38.46.
She called the council’s retirement money a “gift” from taxpayers, saying elected officials “do not contribute anything to the retirement fund like most employees do.”
“I’m glad you’ve been able to identify funding for bonuses, but I think all of these funds should go to city employees,” Barbara Barr said. “They’ve done their jobs well in a difficult time, and they deserve the rewards.”
Ra Barr said that while the employees haven’t had a raise in four years, their health insurance premiums have at times gone up, “meaning that their actual take-home pay has gone down.”
He questioned whether “empty campaign promises” were made by Vaughn in a Marietta Daily Journal article saying city employees would be financially compensated before the council.
Noting the upcoming bonuses, Vaughn responded: “We aren’t receiving anything before the employees receive something.”
Also on Monday:
- The council voted to table setting the monthly stormwater fee after to postpone for the fourth time at Wednesday's work session.
- The council approved the 's application to enter into the State of Georgia Law Enforcement Certification Program. Getting the department certified was something Charlie Sewell said he hoped to do when he was . The previous certification expired in 2007, and Sewell hopes to gain the new one in three years.
- The council went into an executive session to discuss legal matters about the .