WILLIAMSON – At a Williamson City Council meeting Thursday December 10, austerity measures being taken to improve the financial situation for the City of Williamson was a theme throughout the meeting.
According to Investopedia, austerity is defined as, “A state of reduced spending and increased frugality in the financial sector. Austerity measures generally refer to the measures taken by governments to reduce expenditures in an attempt to shrink their growing budget deficits.”
The topic was first introduced following an executive session to discuss personnel matters. “In an effort to always do what is best for the city we discussed austerity measures,” Williamson Mayor Robert Carlton explained during opening remarks. “We will be going into some other austerity measures as we go through the list (agenda items),” Carlton continued.
Later in the meeting, the City Council passed a resolution to close the pension fund to any new entrants at the police department. “We have had some information go out to the police department in relation to this so they will be aware of what is going on and they aren’t blindsided by this. In fact, I visited at the meeting when they met with their pension board representative and after talking everything through with him, it became a consensus that it would be a good thing to do,” Carlton explained.
Carlton continued saying, “The city has a current unfunded liability to pay for pensions for people who are currently working and have worked here. That unfunded pension liability continued and grows larger every time we hire someone new to the police force. As a result, that unfunded liability gets larger and larger and takes up more and more of the budget. By switching the police pension fund over, the city will free up $50,000 a year that is currently being paid into the pension fund.”
Carlton explained stating, “Here is how that works. Currently, we are on a payment plan that pays these pensions theoretically by 2030. If we close these to new entrants and all new entrants go on the Consolidated Public Employees Retirement that the state has; then we can go on a 50 year payment plan. Right now, we are paying about $130,000 a year into this pension. When we close it to new entrants, it will go to the 50 year plan and that payment will go down to about $80,000.”
The next resolution passed closed the Fire Pension Fund to new entrants. “The same information that I gave you before about the police department applies to this. The figures are a combination of both funds. There has been information disseminated to the Fire Department as well,” Carlton said.
Another austerity measure discussed was increasing emergency response fees. “We have discussed that at previous Council meetings. I want that to move forward if we can get an ordinance prepared,” Carlton said.
Williamson Fire Chief, Joey Carey approached the council with information regarding the emergency response fees. “I am in the process of talking to the company that does billing. I have been in talks with people that do insurance billing. They are in the process of preparing me some literature to bring. I can have some information for you at the next council meeting,” Carey said.
The next Williamson City Council meeting will take place Jan. 14, at 6:00 p.m. in the Williamson City Council Chambers at City Hall.
(Courtney Pigman is a news reporter for the Williamson Daily News. She can be contacted at [email protected], or at 304-235-4242 ext. 2279.)