Hartford City Council Committee Declines to Advance Cost of Living Increase for Retirees – Hartford Courant

Retired City of Hartford employees who have waited 14 years for a cost-of-living increase to their pensions may have to wait a little longer after a Hartford City Council committee on Monday refused to advance a resolution that would have increased payments by 3% to certain former workers.

The Operations, Management, Budget and Government Accountability Committee voted 4-2 against passing a resolution that would have provided a 3% COLA to former city employees who retired there. is over the age of 15, had reached the age of 72 on July 1 of this year and who receive an annual benefit of less than $50,000 per year. This adjustment would have resulted in an increase in the actuarially determined employer contribution (ACED) of $484,000 per year for the next 15 years, affecting 890 retirees.

Had the committee adopted the matter, the entire Hartford City Council would then have taken it up for further deliberation at a future meeting.

Ahead of the vote, Leigh Ann Ralls, the city’s chief financial officer, told committee members that funds from the resolution were not included in this year’s budget and would have to be brought forward during the year’s budget discussions. next.

Additionally, she and Councilor John Gale noted that the proposed resolution only grants a COLA to some retirees, but not all.

“I think this resolution should be brought forward and discussed when constructing the FY24 budget so that we can take into consideration the long-term effects that [are] is going to affect the city’s five-year plan and projections,” she said. “Also, it will give everyone time to come up with a resolution that might be fair to all pensioners and give us time to analyze the numbers and the scenarios, but I think right now the budget for the Exercise 23 is very tight.”

The issue has been under discussion since at least April, when former city treasurer Adam Cloud wrote a letter to Hartford City Council Speaker Maly Rosado outlining three different cost-of-living adjustment proposals, including the one that was ultimately rejected.

The other two would have increased the number of eligible beneficiaries to 1,412 and 2,269 retirees, respectively, and would have cost the city $956,000 or $1.5 million per year for 15 years.

Carmen Sierra, the current city treasurer, argued for the COLA, noting that retirees have not received any increase in their benefits for 14 years, adding that the state government has an automatic COLA for its pensions, just like the federal government for social security. recipients. The city’s pension plan has no automatic COLA and must be passed by resolution, according to Cloud’s letter to Rosado.

“These people who worked very hard for the city of Hartford for 20, 30 years didn’t get COLAs,” Sierra said, adding that the city could somehow find the $484,000 to fund the resolution. “I mean, the city isn’t that bad of a financial state. … These people, human beings who have worked very hard, they call our office to try to get help just to meet their needs.

Ralls said it’s not unsympathetic to retirees, but not only has the city not budgeted for the increase, but if passed, it could impact the city’s designation in as a Tier III municipality by the state’s Municipal Accountability Review Board, which provides technical assistance to cities and towns in financial difficulty. When asked how the city would find the funds to pay for the COLA if it were passed, Ralls said she couldn’t pinpoint a specific position, but it would likely be a ” rob Peter to pay Paul”.

Councilwoman Tiana Hercules urged the committee to move forward with the resolution, saying the administration knew about the issue before or during this year’s budget discussions and failed to act on it. She said she’s not convinced it will come up in this year’s budget deliberations.

“Right now the board, which has been criticized for not having a lot of authority, has the power to do something that may be very important to a good number of our former employees,” she said. “For us to launch this in the hope that it will be considered is in a way a dereliction of our duty and our responsibility. … Past behavior can predict future behavior.

Board Majority Leader TJ Clarke, the committee’s co-chair, supported COLA in light of inflation and tax increases.

“These people have done their part and paid their dues and warrant an increase in COLA,” he said. “Now is the time. Harford has come out of its financial shadow, we have had years of consistent surpluses where we may now be able to provide some relief to those who paved the way for us. … Anyone who has perceived a Hartford city pension deserves this.

Gale said he, too, isn’t unsympathetic to retirees, but the city is struggling to recruit and retain current employees, citing a figure provided by the city’s director of human resources several months ago according to which there were about 200 vacancies that the city needed. to fill.

“Our first priority, it seems to me, has to be the current workforce,” he said, adding that he has served on the city council for seven years. “I know we have union contracts for each of our unions that have provided them with four years of zero raise. … We have a DPW who didn’t get a raise, and most of them are making less than $50,000. … We know we have huge problems employing people [because] wages have become so uncompetitive.

Gale called for a more “systematic” approach moving forward that considers the implications of spending those funds.

Ralls said Hartford ayor Luke Bronin would likely be willing to have those discussions for the fiscal year 2024 budget.

“I believe Mayor Bronin is ready to discuss this matter extensively with City Council and the Treasurer’s Office and come up with something more acceptable to the budget and something built into the budget,” she said. declared.

Gale, Hercules, Rosado and councilor Nick Lebron voted against the measure, while Clarke and councilor Shirley Surgeon voted in favor.

A separate vote to postpone talks of a COLA for retirees to the next OMBGA committee meeting also fell through when the point ended in a 3-3 tie, but company attorney Howard Rifkin argued. stated that the agenda item could be postponed to the next meeting.

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