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City Council Raises Own Retirement

Met with opposition on Monday, the move coincided with bonuses of up to $500 for Powder Springs' employees.

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 .
Suzie Q. Public December 07, 2011 at 02:06 AM
"...hey buddy have you got a dime? And the beat goes on." http://bit.ly/v60F7o
Sunshine December 07, 2011 at 08:41 PM
Thank you Councilwoman Nancy Hudson! Thank you for at least attempting to stick up for the little guys while the mayor and the rest of the council are only concerned about themselves. Not even a month ago they told some of the city workers that they were about to be cutting jobs because the city was broke, now a month later they have enough money to give themselves big fat raises! and how are they basing the raise system for employess? if they started in january they get $500? and only $100 or $50 past that? much less the employees who have been there for YEARS and have not seen a raise in 5 years. Quit lining YOUR pockets "mayor" Pat Vaughn!!
Stan Kaady December 08, 2011 at 02:06 PM
Indeed, thank you Councilwoman Hudson. You seem to be the lone voice on city council these days against questionable entitlements and legislation such as this. This vote sends a peculiar message to citizens and city employees. Given that it took place less than a month after city elections and on the evening of Tom Bevirts last night as councilman, it takes on the aroma of secrecy and a self-serving demeanor. Are my perceptions correct? To me they are. And I’m sure to many others as well. The Patch article offers zero justification from our city officials as to why this increase was needed. I can only assume none was given at the meeting. Are the city councils benefit and salary package for part-time government officials below that of other cities our size? If so, kindly state the reason why, provide proof and data and explain why, during the intense recession we are experiencing, that now is a good time to pass this increase. Again, Councilwoman Hudson, thank you for your service and keep up the great work.
Ra Barr December 08, 2011 at 09:17 PM
How can the mayor and council compare a one-time payment of a $500 bonus to a LIFETIME increase in their free, part-time-employment pension? The mayor will get an additional $500 in less than 4 months of receiving retirement payments!!!!
James January 08, 2012 at 06:54 PM
1:47 pm on Sunday, January 8, 2012 We should have sent Pat Packin and Neal too when we had the chance. Nancy Hudson needs to run for Mayor. She seems to be the only one with concern for the city. Thurmon, you will have to run soon. Stop rubber stamping.

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