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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

New pension reform proposal unveiled at City Hall

Atlanta City Councilwoman Yolanda Adrean today offered her own pitch to overhaul city employees' retirement plans during an occasionally heated finance committee meeting. It's the first we've seen that's come from the city's legislative body, and here's the kicker: According to Chief Operating Officer Peter Aman, the mayor supports the proposal.

Under Adrean's plan, which she's been cobbling together with the law department and an actuary since last week, current employees who save 8 percent of their paychecks would see an equal match from the city. The cost of living adjustment would be capped at 1 percent. If the proposal passes, new employees would fall under a different plan tied to social security. Retired city workers would not be affected, she says.

Under the mayor's most recent proposal, general employees would see their defined benefits plan frozen and be asked to contribute 6 percent of their paychecks to retirement with a 125 percent city match.

The councilwoman says the plan's cost-savings — estimates are $16 million the first year and $21 million the second year — aren't as great as Reed's. The tradeoff: Adrean's proposal doesn't come with the legal and administrative questions. Here's a PDF of the legislation. We'll pass along other data, perhaps something a little less legalese, if it becomes available.

Captain Jim Daws, president of Atlanta chapter of the International Association of Fire Fighters, called Adrean's proposal a "huge step in the right direction," but said he and other union members need more time to digest the specifics. Daws has criticized the mayor's previous pension reform package, saying it's based on outdated data and breaks contracts the city made with police and firefighters.

The mayor's warned Council last week that delaying a vote on the pensions until after June 30, the deadline to pass next year's budget, could result in layoffs and service cuts. Council President Ceasar Mitchell calmly said that the legislative body wouldn't decide the pension issue no earlier than July 5 — and possibly as late as September.

Adrean's pension reform pitch doesn't come with a deadline — and she expects Council to deliberate and debate the measure. "What's going to dictate when we vote is when we're done with our work," she says.

The mayor, so we've heard, expects that work to be concluded before June 30. "We'll work as hard as we can to work the stakeholders and experts," Adrean told CL.

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