Tuesday’s Statesboro City Council meeting was rich with issues of debate ranging from discussion of the new public safety director/police chief, an update on Statesboro’s place as ‘America’s Best Community,’ and even the continued discourse over temporary versus permanent vendors. But one topic made its way to the agenda that is sure to draw concrete opinions from both sides: elected official retirement benefits.
Councilman Will Britt explained to the council that the issue of retirement benefits was before them because he had made a list of concerns he wanted to address before vacating office at the end of his term. One of the issues happened to be the benefit multiplier for elected officials. Britt expressed his desire to understand the feasibility mechanism and whether or not former elected officials from the City would be affected.
Currently, an official process stands between the council and a retirement increase, beginning with an official request for a raise in benefit allocations.
As the plan is now written, former elected officials from the City of Statesboro receive $35 per month for every year of service, the benefit of the amount from the last day they were serving in office. So, if an elected official served 4 years, the benefit would be ($35 x 4 = $140 per month) once they reach the age of retirement.
The request submitted in this instance is to increase the benefit from a $35 base to a $40 base.
Before anything can be done, the City of Statesboro is required to conduct a cost study with the help of the Georgia Municipal Association, which was done under the premise of an increase to $45, instead of the requested $40. The results indicated that an increase to $45 would have a 0.02% increase on the overall benefit plan, or roughly $2,033 annually by the city for retirement benefits.
Mayor Moore commented that the “political reality” is that the suggested request is a “raise for elected officials.” She also asked what similar communities were paying. The answer? The average around the state, based on numbers from GMA, is a $25 base.
Mayor Moore does not have a vote on the matter but expressed to the council that she would oppose the increase because “we run to serve, not to retire.” Councilman Riggs seconded her perspective stating, “I will be voting ‘No.’
The last raise occurred just four years ago in 2011. If increased again, the change would go into effect immediately and would increase the benefit for anyone actively serving as an elected official at the time of the increase. Any changes made by this council will not retroactively affect previous officials and their benefits cannot be changed under Georgia law.
Additional documents are needed before the council can make a vote. Councilman Britt requested those documents be submitted for review and made a motion indicating such, which carried, so that a vote may be taken at the next council meeting on November 18.