County workers to get defined benefit pension

Tue, 04/08/2008 - 4:28pm
By: John Thompson

Fayette County’s employees will have a new defined benefits retirement program when the fiscal year starts July 1.

After a lengthy actuarial presentation by consultant Clark Weeks, the County Commission learned that it would cost the county less than it currently contributes for a defined contribution plan.

Currently, the county contributes 4 percent towards the employees’ retirement plan, and Weeks said the county would only have to contribute 3.8 percent for a defined benefits plan with a benefit of 1.5 percent for each year of service.

For instance, if an employee makes $50,000 a year, the employee would receive a defined benefit of $750 for each year of service. The plan also mandates that each employee contribute 2.5 percent towards the plan.

“Requiring them to contribute seems like socialism to me,” said Commissioner Herb Frady.

But Commissioner Eric Maxwell, who served on the committee studying the proposal, was comfortable with the numbers.

“This does not put the county at risk,” he said.

Switching to a defined benefits package has been an issue that has consumed the County Commission for months. During the Wednesday workshop meetings, the commissioners would routinely spend two hours of number-crunching and debating whether the plan was feasible.

The plan also came under fire last August, when a group of former county commission chairmen banded together to speak against adopting a defined benefit pension plan.

The former chairmen said the plan is a bad idea that would cost taxpayers “millions of dollars” and questioned how the plan would be funded.

The letter was signed by former commission chairmen Greg Dunn, Harold Bost, Rick Price, Steve Wallace, George Patton and Jerry Barronton.

But Wednesday’s motion to create a legal plan passed the County Commission by a 4-1 vote, with Frady casting the dissenting vote.

Interim County Administrator Jack Krakeel also noted that Fayetteville and Peachtree City already have a defined benefits plan that provides a 2 percent benefit.

“I think this is a very conservative approach,” he said.

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