Council scraps proposed benefits plan for top staff

No support for measure to ease eligibility requirements for managers


In what had become an increasingly unpopular initiative, the City Council opted not to support a proposal that would have eased retirement benefits for management employees, saying that the administration should look at other ways to retain “top talent” as it continues to focus on post-Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts.

Last month, the council had tabled a resolution to give a number of the city’s full-time management employees with just a minimum of five years of employment in the city — regardless of their age — and their families lifetime health care benefits when they left their jobs with the city or when they retired.

Currently, exempt employees, such as the city manager and department heads, with 15 years of service with the city — or after 30 years of employment — who are not covered under a collective bargaining agreement, are eligible for such health benefits when they retire at age 55.

The resolution would have amended the city’s ordinances to allow exempt employees with a total of 10 years of state, municipal or military service — including a minimum of five years with the city — to collect lifetime health care benefits, including coverage for their families.

City Manager Jack Schnirman said that the move was aimed at attracting and retaining qualified employees in a city where a change in administrations often impacts job security.

“So, it’s a very difficult proposition to recruit folks, as opposed to the labor force, where they have a very secure operation,” Schnirman said at the Dec. 17 council meeting.

Council President Scott Mandel had recommended revisiting the resolution at the Jan. 21 meeting, but it ultimately failed to garner the support of the five-member Democratic council and was not included on Tuesday’s agenda.

“The City Council does not support the proposal and has asked the city manager to look at alternative methods for retaining and recruiting top talent as the months and years go forward,” Mandel said in a statement. “We remain focused like a laser beam on the city's physical and fiscal recovery.”

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