Newly hired non-union city employees will have to wait until at least age 55 to retire under a new plan approved by the city council.
Employees hired on or after Jan. 1 also won't be able to collect a full pension until they turn 62. Those 55 through 61 who choose to begin drawing a pension would get a reduced benefit.
Previously, city workers could retire after 20 or 25 years of service, regardless of age. The council passed five resolutions Monday that outline the new plan, which takes effect retroactively.
The effort was proposed by Mayor Pedro Segarra and others to help reduce the city's expenses, though the full effect won't be felt for several years.
"We didn't want to raise taxes, so the fall-back is to cut where we can," Segarra said. "We need to have a pension system that can be sustained.
Under the new retirement plan, pension payments will be calculated at 1.75 percent of the final average pay, instead of 2.5 percent. Additionally, employees will no longer be able to exchange accumulated sick time for more years of service when calculating retirement benefits.
The regulations don't affect those hired before the new year.
"It's just something that had to be done," Councilman Kenneth Kennedy said. "We had more people receiving pension benefits than we had people paying into the pension fund. It was just too generous."
Nonunion, unclassified employees make up a small percentage of the city's workforce, officials have said, but efforts are underway to reach similar deals with the unions.
"We're operating under a deficit," Segarra said of the roughly $10 million shortfall the city faces this fiscal year. "We need to use this opportunity to reorganize and reduce the cost of government."
After Monday's meeting, the city council finds itself still weighing how to fill two vacancies left by the departures of Matthew Ritter and Veronica Airey-Wilson.
Members, who had voted down three prospective candidates, said they plan to explore and discuss their options. Support was split among the candidates, which included Sean Arena, chairman of the Hartford Redevelopment Agency; Corey Brinson, a Hartford lawyer; and David MacDonald, a member of the city's board of education.
The same people may be nominated again on Jan. 24, council members said, but new candidates may be considered.
Kennedy said he plans to meet Monday with some of the candidates who were rejected, as well as others who have expressed interest.
"If we all take the same position, we're going to be in the same spot at the next meeting," he said. "If we open our minds and come to the table prepared to compromise, I think we'll all be very well served by that."
Ritter, a Democrat, resigned from the council on Jan. 3 and was sworn in two days later as a state legislator representing the 1st House District, which includes portions of Hartford and Bloomfield. Airey-Wilson, a Republican, retired on Dec. 31, 2010.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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