Saturday, June 17, 2006

City in Financial Trouble - Employee Pension Plan $14 million short - No Raises For City Employees?

By Phyllis Schaltenbrand

The First Capitol News has learned that at an executive meeting of the City Council City Administrator Allan Williams informed the Council that the City was in financial trouble. He indicated that the City is without money to support any ongoing increase in labor economic benefits (no raises for City employees). He believes the conditions will worsen with the gaming bill that State Senator Gross had passed that only affects the City of St. Charles. He also advised them that the City has a actuarial study on the retiree health benefits showing the account is short $14 million.

Williams told the Council he would like to offer employees a lump sum buyout for those employees over 55 years old (Police and Fire), over 60 years old (general), and those who meet the rule of 80. He proposed a one time lump sum amount of $15,000 be deposited in their 457 account. Retirement dates will be staggered and determined by the City between now and February 2007. Currently there are 58 eligible, 14 in fire, 28 in general and 16 in police. Thirty three percent of City employees are over the age of 50, 26 percent in fire, 25 percent in police and 39 percent in general. Williams also proposes that the City will no longer contribute toward the spouse retiree health benefit (currently $173.75 per month). However he did tell the Council he wanted to use $150,000 to equip the emergency operations center at the police department and wanted to spend $50,000 engineering a tunnel for bikeways at First Capitol for Lindenwood University students and residents.
The City recently received $1.2 million in permit fees for the construction of the new hotel and related projects at Ameristar Casino. Earlier this year there was a great deal of discussion for the use of that money when it was learned of its anticipated receipt. When the money was received the Council directed it be placed in Council directives. Williams and the Mayor had wanted to use that money for other projects. Now Williams wants the City Council to release those funds for the employee buyouts and for the emergency operations center and the engineering of the tunnel for the bikeways near First Capitol and Lindenwood University. The FCN has learned that expected revenue from Ameristar Casino is down and that the sales tax is expected to be short by the end of the year.

.Councilman John Gieseke told the First Capitol News, "This is the second year in a row the Council has been told that the budgeting was not accurate. Keep in mind during my first term this never happened. I for one have no confidence in the City Administrator’s ability to run this City. The City knew for four years now the pension would have to be funded and yet for the two past budgets it has been ignored. Now he dumps it in our laps and takes no responsibility. "