Decision expected to save $1.5 million over five years
By Jennifer Gollan |
"It is something that we are more or less forced to do," Commissioner Troy Samuels said after Tuesday night's vote. "Eventually, all other cities in the county are going to have to follow similar measures as they react to property tax reform."
The policy change follows a South Florida Sun-Sentinel analysis of the ballooning cost of retiree health benefits. In
Now Coconut Creek,
"We have asked for concessions from the unions for existing employees and for new hires," said Raelin Storey, a Hollywood spokeswoman.
Sunrise Deputy Mayor Roger Wishner said he will request a thorough review of employee perks this month.
"It is a long-term burden. Based on the long-term decreases in revenue, we have to look at every penny we can save," he said. "The days of giving money away through these agreements are over."
Sagging property values and voter-mandated tax reform are forcing all cities to scrutinize their budgets, looking for ways to trim.
The city's decision to cut benefits, approved unanimously by the commission, is expected to save about $1.5 million over five years, Samuels said. In addition to not offering retiree health insurance benefits to new hires, the city decided current employees no longer will accumulate credit for retiree health benefits. Government watchdogs lauded the benefit cutbacks.
"It is long overdue," said Dominic Calabro, president of Florida TaxWatch, a nonprofit government watchdog based in
Broward municipalities that have no plans to eliminate the benefits for new hires include
Some officials argue that retiree benefits attract more-qualified workers.
"Our city has some of the best department heads and employees in the state, and I believe these benefits help attract them," Coconut Creek Mayor Becky Tooley said. "Can we keep it up forever? I don't know, but I would like to try as long as we can."
As part of the cost-cutting package, commissioners also voted to require employees with take-home vehicles to reimburse the city for the gas they use for personal trips. Police and fire employees are exempted. The measure is expected to save the city as much as $60,000 annually.
"This was just one of the many painful cuts in the crisis that we are finding ourselves in," Commissioner Carl Lanke said.