Vote on pension fails 5-2
The Blue Earth City Council took two votes at last Monday night’s regular meeting that dealt with the 2019 city budget, and one of those decisions came after some impassioned debate.
In the one case, they voted to approve adding up to $95,000 to the budget for a new slide for the Blue Earth Community Pool.
On the other item, the council had a 5-2 vote to not reinstate $12,000 into the budget for additional funds for the Blue Earth Fire Department Firemens’ Relief Pension Fund.
A motion to cut the $12,000 from the budget had been passed at a previous council meeting.
Last Monday night the motion was made by councilman John Huisman to reput it back into the proposed budget, after first making a plea to have the funds reinstated and asking for someone to please second his motion.
Councilman Glenn Gaylord made the second, just to get it on the table for more discussion, he said.
Gaylord then presented figures which he said showed the pension fund was fully funded without any additional contribution needed from the council this coming year.
“There is $1,422,717 in that fund,” Gaylord said. “If you cashed that out today and paid every firemen what he was due at his retirement, you would still have $314,418 left.”
Firemen’s Relief Association treasurer Chris Mathews said there is a reason the pension monies are over funded and that has to do with changes in the way the stock market goes. He said the fund took a hit in the crash of 2008. He also disputed Gaylord’s figures, saying the current balance in the fund was $1.292 million.
Gaylord praised the firemen for the hard work they do, and said no one appreciates what they do more than he does, but added he felt the fund was adequate at this time.
“I see you guys at fires and car accidents and I support you and the department,” he said. “But this decision does not have to do with how much you do. We have to look at all items in the budget, all the departments, to try and get to a balanced budget.”
Mayor Rick Scholtes also praised the fire department and said this dropping of the $12,000 has nothing to do with their dedication and the city’s appreciation of their hard work.
“We raised what you get for your pension per year, and every firemen is going to get every penny of what they are due when they retire, whether we do this $12,000 or not,” Scholtes said. “And this is a one-year thing. I fully believe we will budget the extra $12,000 the next year.”
Huisman responded that it was not all about the money.
“That $12,000 is just 3.9 percent of the budget,” he said. “This is more about preserving this pension fund, and being consistent in funding it. This is no time to quit this. I just don’t understand this.”
For the pool slide, the council looked at several proposals for the cost of a new slide that ranged from just under $85,000 to just over $86,000.
The council discussed the community fundraising that had been done for the slide, which means the city would end up paying around $60,000 for the new slide after accounting for the donation from the Pool Slide Committee.
The council looked at the overall preliminary 2019 budget which showed an overall increase from this year of $64,137.10. That will cause a 3.5 percent increase in the tax levy.
However, the actual final version of the budget will be set at either the Dec. 3 or Dec. 17 council meeting.
On Dec. 3, the council will hold its required Truth In Taxation Hearing at 6 p.m. as part of the regular meeting. Citizens can attend to hear about the budget in detail at that time.