Changes to the city of Macons two existing pension plans, proposed in reaction to the coming city-Bibb County government consolidation, cleared a City Council committee Wednesday.
Functionally identical alterations are to be made to the pension plan for general employees, and the one for police and firefighters, City Attorney Judd Drake told the Employee Development & Compensation Committee. Bibb County is making similar changes to its plan for the same reason, he said.
Both ordinances cleared committee by 4-0 votes, with Councilwoman Nancy White absent. The measures still face a final vote before the full council Nov. 19.
The plan amendments do two major things: close the plans to anyone hired after Dec. 31, when the new Macon-Bibb consolidated government will take over; and provide that the new government will appoint many of the boards future members, instead of the soon-to-dissolve city government.
Basically, these amendments were prepared by Patti Keesler, Drake said. Keesler, an Atlanta attorney, was hired by the task force working on consolidation to handle pension legal issues.
One major feature is a soft freeze of both plans, meaning that people who now work for the city, or are hired before the end of the year, will stay in one of the existing plans, Drake said. New hires after Jan. 1 will start under a new pension system, one similar to the plan Bibb County employees have now, he said.
Committee members raised no objections to the changes, but they had several questions. Councilwoman Lauren Benedict said she wanted to clarify that city employees who arent yet vested in their plans will still be able to become vested once their time working for the city and the new government totals five years.
Drake said thats true for employees including himself.
I think council member (Tom) Ellington played a large role in making sure we were eligible to remain in the existing plans, Drake said.
Benedict and Councilman Henry Gibson asked Human Resources Director Ben Hubbard to reiterate assurance that the proposed changes do not alter any benefits for current or future retirees.
Any change would have to be voted on by the new commission and the mayor in the new government, Hubbard said, adding that even a change approved by the new government couldnt reduce already-promised benefits.
Drake said current employees wont be able to join the new governments pension plan even if they want to -- but they shouldnt want to anyway, because the citys old plans are slightly more generous.
The ordinances also make the Macon-Bibb government responsible for appointing some members of the pension boards, instead of Macons government. But they dont change the size or other composition of the boards.
One provision says that current board members will serve out their remaining terms unless theyre no longer eligible for their seats. But even then, newly ineligible members will serve until replacements are named.
The new Macon-Bibb government, faced with a huge amount of work from the beginning, may not make new appointments for some time, Drake said. That provision will affect Benedict and White, members of the general employees pension board, since they didnt run for seats on the new government; and Councilman Frank Tompkins, who lost his bid for a new commission seat.
To contact writer Jim Gaines, call 744-4489.