City Resolves Remaining Employee Benefit Issues

OCEAN CITY – A big difference from almost a year ago, the Mayor and City Counted unanimously voted to approve ordinances concerning town employees’ benefits.

Human Resource Director Wayne Evans presented the history of town employees’ benefits regarding vacation time. In 2002, the town decreased holiday days from 14 to 12, eliminating Good Friday and New Year’s Eve, which were converted to personal days employees could choose use at any time. If those days were not used, then they would be forfeited by the end of the year with no carry over.

In July of 2010 a recommendation was made to eliminate an additional holiday.

During the fall, a list of town employee benefit changes were brought forward and placed into ordinance form, including an ordinance that eliminated the fifth-week vacation, eliminated life insurance, reduced the ICMA 457 deferred compensation plan from $500 to $200 annually and reduced holidays from 12 days to 11 days. The second reading of the ordinance was in January of 2011, which was subsequently vetoed by Mayor Rick Meehan.

“By the time that was vetoed, we had already implemented the holiday schedule and the ICMA match change at the first of the year,” Evans said.

Councilman Brent Ashley made a motion to keep the holiday schedule the same as years before — set at 12 days — and the council voted unanimously to agree.

“This discussion was originally brought up by staff to discuss how to look at the budget differently and save some money for the taxpayers,” Councilwoman Margaret Pillas said. “When I originally made the motion to pass this, it was for new hires. My concern is though we can’t get it worked out, 11 days for some [new] and 12 [current] days for others so I am going to vote to take it back to 12 days.”

Evans furthered that the town has matched 25 percent of employee contributions up to a specified maximum into the ICMA deferred compensation plan since 2003.

In 2003, the year maximum was $200 and increased to $250 in 2005, $300 in 2008 and $500 in 2009. The vetoed ordinance reduced the ICMA match to $200. The match was already budgeted into this fiscal year, and programmed into the payroll system as of the beginning of the year.

The cost savings associated with the reduction in the ICMA match is an estimated $65,000 annually. The ICMA reduction ordinance originally drafted included all general employees.

“My intention always was … that the change in benefits was only for new employees,” Ashley said. “I clearly said that anything affecting current employees I was not for … the $200 was only for new hires.”

Meehan said the reduction in the ICMA match affecting only new employees might have been what was discussed but the drafted ordinance that the majority of the council passed in January were for all general employees.

A motion was made by Council Secretary Lloyd Martin to set the ICMA match at $500 across the board, but was quickly voted down by a vote of 4-3, with Council members Joe Hall, Ashley, Jim Hall, and Pillas in opposition.

Pillas turned around and made a second motion setting the ICMA match at $200 for all town employees hired Jan. 1 and after and for pre-existing employees to remain at a $500 match. The council voted unanimously to approve the motion.