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City council discusses pension, levy

WORTHINGTON -- During its regular meeting Monday night, the Worthington City Council discussed firefighter pensions and precertified the levy for the 2014 budget.

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The council approved a 1.3 percent increase in the levy. That number may be lowered, but is an amount not to exceed before the final levy certification in December. Within the same case item, the council approved the Housing and Redevelopment Authority's proposed levy of $99,331, which was about a $14,000 increase from a year ago.

The council also discussed a request from Worthington Fire Department representative Pat Shorter. Shorter and the WFD is looking for an increase in their pensions.

Currently, firefighters receive $2,725 annually, or $54,500 after 20 years of service.

Shorter presented two options. The first was a .9 percent increase, which would be $122.63 per year or $2,442 or 20 years. The second was for .5 percent, which is $68.13 per year of service or $1,362 for 20 years. The WFD wanted the increase retroactive for the past five years.

"Retention is tough," Shorter said. "Our society is so mobile now a days that people move. It's a good tool to keep them retained."

City Administrator Craig Clark estimated the cost per year would be a little more than $4,000 per year for the .9 percent increase.

"You have support, we just have to figure out how we're going to fund it," Mayor Alan Oberloh said.

The council supported the increase, but didn't make a final decision Monday night. The members wanted to see the exact numbers that would impact the budget.

"The alternative to this thing is if we don't have a good volunteer force, we're going to end up having to have a paid force," council member Mike Kuhle said. "That would be a lot more expensive than what we're looking at here."

The council approved $49,000 from Worthington Rediscovered Funds to the Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership to acquire and demolish the single-family home at 2305 East Avenue.

At the beginning of the meeting, the council heard a presentation from Elizabeth Wefel, senior attorney and lobbyist from the Greater of Minnesota Cities. She talked about local government aid issues, among other items.