The warning has been sounded. The Macon-Bibb County Commission has been told that the light they see at the end of the tunnel is really an oncoming freight train. If they don’t take action now, the train will hit the consolidated government and it will have no choice but to eliminate positions. Some might think that a good thing, but in any such collision there is always collateral damage.
The commissioners, by not acting on the mayor’s proposal to cut the $388 monthly insurance subsidy for future pensioners, will put employees who can least afford to be laid off at risk. For example, if the city-county decides a reduction in force is necessary, whose heads will be on the chopping block? Deputies? Of course not. Firefighters? Nope. Court employees? Not a chance. Public works employees, watch out. Board of Election employees, be prepared to duck. Parks and Beautification, you’re in the line of fire.
The $2.8 million annual price tag for the subsidies will take some time to implement. Employees will have a certain date to make a decision to retire with the subsidy or not. That means the subsidy costs will initially increase. The naysayers are spreading specious arguments among present retirees that just aren’t true. The mayor’s proposal -- last budget cycle nor the upcoming one -- does not eliminate the subsidy from present retirees.
Commissioners have a choice. Taking this action now is not only essential to getting the process started, but after this budget cycle comes an election year making it almost impossible to pass such a proposal. Acting now protects jobs rather than putting them at risk. Commissioners should recognize the sound of the train headed their way even if they can’t distinguish the source of the light.