Blame rising health care costs.
The city council voted to tighten eligibility requirements for some existing employees before the city will pay, upon their retirement, a share of their health insurance costs.
And the city will no longer pay a share of retiree health insurance costs for new employees who work through to retirement. That change takes effect
The measures are meant to address hundreds of millions of dollars in unfunded health insurance liabilities that will come due as current employees retire.
The long-term moves came as the council also voted to grant relief -- for 2017 at least -- to some city retirees who were facing premium increases of up to 56 percent.
City employees long have received benefits that, with the passage of time and changes in the private workplace, came to look generous by comparison.
"One of the things that municipal jobs have always carried with them is security on into retirement," said
"And to start to erode that in the way that we've done here is a pretty serious threat to that."
Currently, employees who reach age 55 with at least five years' service qualify for retiree health care benefits and are eligible to have the city pay a share of the premium.
Under the new rules, current employees must reach age 60 with at least 15 years of service to have the city help with the premium.
Those reaching full retirement will still qualify for the city's retiree health plans and remain eligible for premium cost-sharing -- police and firefighters after 20 years of service and others after 25 years.
Employees joining the city starting next year would qualify to buy retiree insurance through a city plan but would have to bear the full weight of the cost.
City officials had said there was a
The fiscal 2017 budget includes nearly
Changes in eligibility are expected to put a
The temporary fix for 2017 affects retirees, including many former police officers, who are under age 65 and ineligible for
Some of those retirees were facing a 56 percent premium increase.
The council agreed to pick up an increased share of the increase at an expected cost of
Retirees who agree to enroll in a plan, known as the group indemnity alternate, with
Retirees have until
The city opened an employee health clinic as part of efforts to reduce health care costs.
White said he uses it and that he thinks it is "an avenue that is so under-utilized."
"I go there and ask them questions and they say, 'Well, hardly anybody's using it.' It's just not being used to the extent it could be and it has the potential of being a huge, huge savings on our health care costs."
Cornett is a national leader on municipal issues and serves this year as president of the
"It seems to me like the federal government is going to have to do something," he said.
She characterized the city's benefits as "extraordinarily generous."
White said the generosity of the city's benefit package has contributed to a quality work force.
"We've kept people here because of it, people that could have gone someplace else and made more money, they've stayed here because of that," he said.
White said the quality of the city's work force could erode as benefits are curtailed. Employees, especially police and firefighers, might feel compelled to stay on past when they would otherwise retire to keep from losing their health insurance.
The potential for those consequences needs to be acknowledged, he said.
"We ought to say it," White said. "We ought to own that."
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