BRUNSWICK – Beginning next month, Brunswick’s 213 employees will be required to put 3 percent of their pay into a pension fund now funded by the city.
The move did not sit well with a crowd of city workers who attended the Wednesday night’s meeting in which the City Commission approved the payroll deduction.
Several police officers were particularly upset. They have gone four years without a pay raise, have taken two unpaid furlough days a month and have to pay part of their health insurance.
The city is facing a $1.5 million shortfall as it tries to meet its $15 million budget, Mayor Bryan Thompson said. The city has fully funded the pension plan at a cost of $1.3 million a year but is scraping to find ways to save money.
“This will be the first of many tough decisions this commission will have to make,” Thompson said.
Commissioner James Brooks said it wasn’t fair to put a heavier burden on the backs of the employees.
“This is a serious slap in the face to them,” he said. “I can’t see going along with this at this time.”
Brooks cast the lone nay vote to set the deduction at 3 percent, backing instead a failed attempt to set it at 2.5 percent. He was back in his seat after missing the previous two meetings because he was in jail on charges of possessing a firearm as a felon and unlawfully influencing other city officials. He is out on bail.
City Manager Bill Weeks said the 3 percent from employees would save the city about $150,000 this year. A previous proposal would have had them contribute 7 percent, which would have saved $371,000.
Thompson said that nothing was being taken away from employees.
“This money is put in their pension funds,” he said. “… It doesn’t go away.”
He said the issue could be revisited when the economy improves, with the possibility that the employees’ contribution could be lowered or even eliminated.
Mike Morrison for the Times-Union