Mayor Steve Bach convinced the City Council this week to pass a resolution in support of a bill that would allow local governments to force their civilian employees to pay a greater share into the Public Employees’ Retirement Association.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Kent Lambert, R-Colorado Springs, was introduced in the state Senate on Wednesday. Brian DelGosso, R-Loveland, is the House sponsor.
Lambert’s “proposed bill would change State law to allow employers in only the local government division of PERA to decrease the employer contribution rate and increase the member contribution rate by an amount to be determined by the employer. The decrease in the employer annual contribution is not to exceed 2.5 percent,” city documents state.
“For 2012, a 2.5 percent decrease to the employer contribution rate would have saved the City and its enterprises (excluding Utilities and Memorial Hospital) approximately $1.625 million,” documents state.
In 2012, the city of Colorado Springs expects to contribute $9.35 million into PERA.
While the amount of money that the city pays for the pensions of civilian employees could fix a lot of roads and turn on a lot of streetlights, the pension plans of police officers and firefighters will cost taxpayers almost 60 percent more than for civilian employees this year.
“The All Funds total for sworn pension plans is approximately $14,889,100,” Budget Manager Lisa Bigelow said in an email.
Sworn personnel make up the biggest number of city employees.
The city employs about 1,630 people, including about 768 cops and 372 firefighters.
“The only reason (police and fire pensions) cost the city more is they make up the majority of the employees,” City Councilman Bernie Herpin said on Facebook.
“Our contributions to their pension plans, on a percentage basis, is less than to PERA. We contribute 8 percent for those sworn police and fire that are in the statewide plan (which most are now) as opposed to 13.7 percent for PERA. Police & fire sworn also contribute 8 percent,” he said.
In an interview this week, Bach said he would address the pension plans of police officers and firefighters in coming months, though he didn’t go into specifics.
“We will be talking with the police and fire departments about their pension plans as part of our budgeting for 2013 through 2015,” he said.
(To watch the interview with the mayor, click here.)
Bigelow said the city has three pension plans for sworn personnel.
“The City has a closed sworn pension plan, the Old Hire Pension Plan, that has only one active member,” she wrote.
“In 2012, the City’s contribution to the Old Hire Pension Plan for Fire is $1,491,283 and for Police is $1,407,209. With the exception of the one active member in the Old Hire Pension Plan, current sworn employees are either a member of a closed pension plan, the New Hire Pension Plan, or the FPPA State-wide Plan. The employer and employee contribution rates for these Plans are determined based upon actuarial studies. These studies take into account all accrued liabilities. For the New Hire Plan, the employer contribution rate is not currently broken out by specific categories of liabilities such as active and retired employees. However, the City is working with FPPA to break this out. For the State-wide Plan, the employer contribution rate is not broken out by specific categories of liabilities such as the City of Colorado Springs Municipal Government retired employees.”