GI Council Examines Public Safety Pension Discrepancy

By: Megan Johnson Email
By: Megan Johnson Email

Retirement funds are paid out a little differently for Grand Island public safety employees who were hired before 1984 and still work for the city.

But when a retirement payout for one such employee was bigger than most the City Council approves, the council started asking questions.

Finance Director Jaye Monter says that claim that raised the red flags was accurate, but she still looked into how the pension payouts are calculated for the eight public safety employees that fall into that pre-1984 category.

"We went back to look at state statutes, we went back to the history of the payees of how the City has paid all of the retirees, both police and fire," says Monter.

They discovered that since 2005 the city has been paying those retirees hired before 1984 a joint annuity - in other words a payout for the employee and their spouse. Prior to that a single, or straight, annuity had been the norm, but no one knows why the payouts changed.

"We've gone back to search if anything went to council, if anything went to the pension committee meeting, meeting minutes we've searched those records, and we really don't know why it was changed," says Monter.

City Council President Bob Niemann says that mystery is cause for concern.

"That's one of the things I think we really do need to talk about, things like that shouldn't happen, and when they do happen you ought to be able to back track to a point and find out why," says Niemann.

The council heard more about the pension plans from finance officials at a study session Tuesday night. Ultimately they'll have to decide if the city will give those seven police officers and one firefighter the joint annuity payout or the straight annuity payout, potentially cutting their retirement funds in half.

"That's the decision that will have to be made by the council - is it fair? how are we going to do it,?" says Niemann. "I think some things will come up in the conversation that will lead us to a decision hopefully."

There's no way to know the exact cost to the city, but one projection puts it at more than $702,000 for a single payout versus more than $1.4 million in joint cost, and that's just for the seven police officers.

The council will likely make their decision at their council meeting next week.


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