Published: May 19, 2011 6:13 PM EDT
Updated: May 19, 2011 2:54 AM EDT

PUNTA GORDA Fla.- The Punta Gorda city council listened today as city staff delivered recommendations about changes to their pension plan. Staff proposed cutting retirement benefits, raising the amount that employees contribute to the plan by two percent, raising the retirement age and putting new hires into a 401k type retirement system that would cut benefits for any new employees working for the city. Employees and union representatives watched the meeting concerned about some of the proposed changes. Sergeant Rick Mohaupt with the police department is the Police Benevolent Association union representative for the Sergeants at the department. He attended the meeting this morning. "With that, I cant think of a reason why a good quality candidate is going to want to come work here in the future", he said about the proposed changes.

Over the next 20 years, the savings to the city could add up to a million dollars a year. Although a million dollars doesn't sound like a lot of money when we talk about the way governments spend it, consider that the cities ad valorem revenue last year, which is used to pay salaries for city employees, was only about 6 million dollars, then a million dollars starts to become a significant number. "It certainly helps the city's financial position in the long run", said City Manager Howard Kunik. The city council admitted they could have avoided this shortfall by contributing to the pension fund back in 2007 when they had a budget surplus. At the time, city leaders had the option of contributing more to the fund to prevent budget shortfalls. Instead they chose to pay in the minimum amount required to equalize the fund.

Mayor Harvey Goldberg said the choice to move forward with the idea is regrettable, but necessary to maintain the budget. "We don't like having to do this, but its something we have to do for the protection of the viability of the future of the city." Mohaupt says that his peers are glad that present employees are being taken into consideration when it comes to changes. "They recognized that it wouldn't be fair to change the rules or pull the rug out from under them." The 5 member council unanimously directed staff to draw a draft of the proposal to bring in front of the pension board for review.