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Pension phase-in requested
Wednesday, June 27, 2012
By DEBBIE HALL - Bulletin Staff Writer
The Henry County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday sent a strongly worded suggestion to the school board:
Reconsider a decision to fully implement increases to the state pension fund rather than phasing them in over a five-year period.
“I get the indication from the public and the board members (supervisors) here that they would like it to be reconsidered,” supervisors Chairman Jim Adams told Schools Superintendent Jared Cotton and finance director Dawn Lawson during Tuesday’s supervisors meeting.
A new state mandate called for participants in the Virginia Retirement System (VRS) to increase their contribution to the state pension fund by 5 percent and receive a pay raise to offset the additional cost. The state gave localities, schools and other affected agencies the option of phasing in the increase over the five-year period.
County officials determined that phasing the increase in for county employees would save $218,000 over the five-year period, County Administrator Benny Summerlin said Tuesday.
The school board approved implementing the full increase this year and calculated it would cost $579,000 more to do so, according to Summerlin and previous reports.
Members of the school board did not attend the supervisors meeting.
However, in speaking for the school board, Cotton said by phasing in the increase at 1 percent per year for the next five years, employees actually would take a pay cut, even with the raise to offset their increased contribution. That is due to higher taxes, withholding and other items, according to previous reports.
Officials have said in the past that is true regardless of how the contribution is implemented.
Additionally, “it comes down to equity. All new employees (hired after July 1) will have to pay” the full 5 percent, while those hired before the new law took effect would pay only 1 percent, Cotton said. That makes the issue a concern for recruiting and retaining employees.
“All of these (concerns) came into play” when the school board made its decision, he said, and noted that future uncertainty also was an issue.
“I understand the recruitment and retention, but you always have that” or similar issues due to seniority among employees, Adams said. He asked about the additional clerical work that a phase-in would have on the school division’s record keeping.
Lawson said there already are six VRS reduction codes, depending on an employee’s status and whether the person is a 10-, 11- or 12-month employee.
Last year, the division hired about 50 new employees, and this year it will have more, Lawson said.
Cotton said the additional record keeping only played a part in the school board’s decision.
Also Tuesday, the supervisors:
• Approved a $9,000 increase to the Martinsville-Henry County SPCA to help offset the costs of preparing dogs from the animal pound for adoption/rescue. The agency requested $45,000 and pledged to match the county’s contribution.
The increased amount to the SPCA was approved after supervisors approved $121,965 in additional fuel costs for various departments.
In both cases, the funds were deducted from the board’s $131,825 Contingency Fund, which now contains $860.
• In other budget adjustments, supervisors approved a reduction in the 911 Center’s budget due to the elimination of a position; a new code enforcement officer in the Planning, Zoning and Inspections Department; and additional costs in the sheriff’s office related to part-time animal shelter worker.
• Awarded a $97,201.13 contract to Motorola Solutions, Inc., for a service and warranty agreement on the county’s emergency services radio system. Funds for the contract were included in the fiscal 2013 budget.
• Awarded a $29,333 contract to Debord Asphalt Sealing and Striping of Sparta, N.C., to seal the Dick & Willie Trail, from funds in the fiscal 2013 budget.
• Approved $107,439 in grant proceeds from the Virginia E-911 Services Board to replace computer hardware for mapping and CAD systems in the Martinsville-Henry County 911 Communications Center. Supervisors also appropriated $88,221.15 to Dell Inc. for computer hardware and $6,043.41 to Software House International for software.
• Awarded $60,000 as part of the South Street Rehabilitation project to low bidder Fairystone Construction for the substantial reconstruction of a home on Pleasant Ridge Road in Bassett.
• Approved an additional appropriation of $1,450 from the asset forfeiture line item to the travel expenses line item as requested by Commonwealth’s Attorney Bob Bushnell.
• Approved an additional appropriation and granted Dale Wagoner, director of public safety, permission to carry forward $38,000 from soft-billing revenue from fiscal 2012 to fiscal 2013. The funds will be used to match an expected grant from the Rescue Squad Assistance Fund, and when combined, used to buy a new ambulance and stretcher for the county’s supplemental EMS program.
• Approved insurance reimbursements of $6,000 and appropriated the money to the sheriff’s office’s repair vehicle line item.
• Approved and appropriated a $30,456 rebate from American Electric Power for energy improvements at Laurel Park Middle School and Magna Vista High School, with the rebate funds earmarked for lighting and ceiling renovations at Magna Vista.
• Approved a $200,000 transfer appropriation from the school division’s facilities, operations and maintenance category to the instruction category to pay for additional instruction items.
• In closed session, consulted with the county attorney on pending legal matters, the acquisition/disposal of real estate and as-yet unannounced industries; and discussed appointees to the Roanoke River Basin Association.
No actions followed closed session.
The board also met at 6 p.m., and discussed general highway matters with Lisa Hughes, resident engineer for the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT).