City OKs new retirement benefit

A new retirement savings plan approved by Port Orchard City Council on Monday could help entice more experienced law enforcement officers and other staff to take jobs with the city, officials say.

Police Chief Al Townsend introduced the resolution to the council in response to his hiring of a former Washington State Patrol trooper who paid into a state-sponsored retirement plan prior to retiring.

Law enforcement officers who pay into state-sponsored plans aren’t eligible to be entered into the police officers’ retirement system when taking new police jobs, under state rules.

“The way it’s set up now, most police officers aren’t that interested in coming back into law enforcement because they’re not allowed to participate any further,” Townsend said.

That puts the city at a competitive disadvantage, Townsend contends, because previous law enforcement officers – like the trooper he hired — bring with them years of experience and training that would have cost the city more than $50,000 to provide.

“It’s especially difficult to get experienced police officers, and this will help in our recruiting capabilities,” Townsend said. “There are not many jurisdictions who do this.”

The employee will contribute 100 percent of the state-required contribution and the city will give 75 percent of what constitutes the city’s portion of the regular retirement contribution.

Under the plan, the employee will be required to establish a state-sponsored deferred compensation plan and deposit an amount equal to or greater than the total of the employee and city contributions.

The contributions will be calculated on base wage rates and will only include those regular and leave hours that make up the 80-hour pay period. Other compensation, including but not limited to overtime, Labor and Industry payments, specialty pay, longevity pay and leave buy-out aren’t included.

By paying 75 percent, the city also saves money on retirement savings that would cost a 100 percent contribution for regular city employees, Townsend noted.

Other new city employees could be covered by the new retirement plan, although few fall into the same category as law enforcement officers. Some employees from offices such as the Treasurer’s Office might pay into state plans, making them ineligible for a city retirement savings plan.

Mayor Kim Abel applauded the new plan as a way to save money on training and attract better qualified candidates for jobs with the city.

“Being a small city, we need every advantage,” Abel said. “This would most benefit law enforcement. That’s where the program seems to have the greatest impact.”

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