There's a saying that bad things come in threes. Lubbock City Council may have its third major controversy on the coming year's budget this week. The first two controversies were the potential closing of the Health Department and proposed cuts to Citibus.
The third goes something like this; No less than seven people have signed up to speak to the Council on Thursday about the city's pension. There are no formal plans to cut the city's pension, which is a 2 to 1 match up to 7% up of an employees salary. Nevertheless City Councilman Victor Hernandez may have swatted a political hornets' nest last week when he posted to his Facebook page.
Hernandez quotes Andy Burcham, Lubbock's Chief Financial Officer, as saying, "The City's contribution to TMRS for FY 2011-12 is estimated at $16.16 million for TMRS employees and an additional $5.57 million for employees in the Fire Pension."
Hernandez did not specifically call for cuts but some have inferred an intention to make cuts from his Facebook message.
Virtually every city in Texas offers the exact same benefits through TMRS or the Texas Municipal Retirement System. The City is spending an average of roughly $12,300 per employee in the coming year for TRMS retirement match. Over the span of a 20-year career that's about $246,000 contributed by the city toward an employee's retirement.
Sources say if the city did away with the 2 to 1 match, capped at 7% of base salary, then Lubbock would not be in the top 10 Texas cities for pay & benefits. And it would be harder to recruit quality candidates. Sources also say the employees are clearly upset by even the hint of having their retirement cut.
Hernandez has also hinted at closing City of Lubbock museums such as the Buddy Holly Center and Silent Wings Museum as possible areas of budget savings.
The Council gives second and final reading of the 2011/2012 budget on Thursday.
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