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OPEB Predicament Brings Change for New Hires in Westport

The town's non-Union pension boards approved changes at the request of First Selectman Gordon Joseloff.

The town’s two nonunion pension boards today approved closing the non-union supervisory and non-union non-supervisory pension plans to new employees hired after Jan. 1.

“As you are aware, for the past two years there has been a great deal of discussions at all levels of town government about ‘closing out’ the defined benefit plans to new hires and transitioning them to a new town-defined contribution plan," First Selectman Gordon Joseloff stated in a memo to the committees requesting the change.

“Given , I believe it is also prudent to also eliminate retiree health benefits for new hires,” he wrote.

Both pension boards by unanimous vote approved a resolution that makes such plans unavailable to employees hired on or after Jan. 1. The changes now go to the Representative Town Meeting (RTM) which must approve the changes.

There are 91 employees of the Town of Westport, Board of Education, and in both plans.

At the meetings, both Joseloff and , chairman of the Board of Finance and Pension Boards, stressed that current employees will not be affected by the changes, including those who may be promoted into non-union supervisory or non-union non-supervisory positions.

Joseloff and Kaner explained that the town is developing a defined contribution plan for new non-union employees and hopes to include similar plans for union personnel as current union pension plans come up for renewal.

“We want to be fair to our employees but at the same time we need to be fair to our taxpayers who have to bear the burden of the rising uncertain cost of current defined benefit plans,” Joseloff said.

“I have said repeatedly that Westport can no longer afford to continue to pay the level of benefits that have been approved in past agreements. What we are doing is no different than what other municipalities have done and are seeking to do and what is now the practice in much of private industry,” he added.

Selectman's office and the Board of Finance are on the same page with this matter, according to Kaner.

"We have made the difficult decision today that will better position us for the future," Kaner said.

“We're looking forward to working closely with and the , to design new employee benefit plans," Kaner added. "It is imperative to provide a competitive package for new employees, while also being fair to the taxpayer and reducing market risk."

Joseloff said the town’s new finance director is aware of the changes and will help draft the defined contribution plan. He said Conrad will be subject to an employment contract that will cover his pension benefits.

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