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February 23, 2011

8

Beutler’s .5 percent pay cut is a start — but what about that 12 percent retirement match?

by Deena Winter

Mayor Chris Beutler announced yesterday that he and his cabinet and aides will take a one-half percent pay cut in the next budget, to “send the right message” to their fellow employees and the community.

Lincoln Mayor Chris Beutler

That’s a great start. But Beutler could go farther. For the past several years, he has railed against the city’s overly generous retirement program for civilian employees — where the city kicks in about $2 for every $1 the employee contributes toward retirement, up to 12 percent of their salary. The generous match caused controversy during the recession, when many private companies reduced or eliminated such matches.

“That generosity is inhibiting Lincolnites’ willingness to invest in our future,” Beutler said at a press conference in 2009. “They’re asking why our tax dollars are financing retirements that they themselves can’t.”

In the end, he was unable to get the unions to go along with reducing the match for existing employees, but most unions agreed to reduce the match for new hires to a more palatable 1.3-to-1.

Beutler even chastised the one holdout union for essentially being so selfish in fighting to keep the 2-to-1 match. However, I recently learned that Beutler and his cabinet still get the “overly generous” 2-to-1 match. Beutler gets about $8,712 per year in retirement compensation — that’s more than Gov. Dave Heineman gets, even though he earns about $30,000 more per year than Beutler.

I think that sends the wrong message to Beutler’s fellow city employees and the public, and if he really wants to set an example for them, he should donate the excess retirement to charity. Just a thought.

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8 Comments Post a comment
  1. Roger Yant
    Feb 23 2011

    Personally, I believe there should be no matching. It is us, the taxpayers paying these matching funds. I hope Tammy Buffington takes this on.

    Reply
  2. Janet Poley
    Feb 23 2011

    Nebraska is a very low wage state. We don’t pay anyone enough – not our workers – union or not; Not our mayor or public officials and what we pay our governor is embarrassing. Why don’t we talk about the “real issues”.? The Lincoln Journal Star pointed out that one of the reasons Nebraska is doing well is because we pay so little – we have and have to have more two wage earners in families than just about any other state. Good thing we have lots of strong well educated women!

    My Grandfather – a farmer and land owner in eastern Nebraska – said so rightly years ago – whether the land stays in our family would depend on the “women getting high paying jobs”. That has certainly turned out to be true for many of the states farmers.

    Agriculture has changed and there are more options for agricultural products than the local grain elevator. But one wonders what might have happened to make things consistently better in the state in the longer term if Cooperatives were stronger., The LJS says that after a couple of years things get worse for us in Nebraska not better. Ethanol is a short term fix.

    Let’s change this bottom feeding conversation.- quit this “break the unions” talk; “fight with our fellow citizens because they get a few dollars more than someone else” . Why isn’t someone talking about those in this community that have “cheated” on far more substantial matters for make millions. I think everybody should learn from the unions. They seem to be the only organizations who have strategies to lift people’s wages. i.e. they know how to bargain together. I think that’s what we’ve seen in the streets in the middle east and we applaud.

    I haven’t decided who to support for mayor or council in the next election. Maybe I’ll do a write-in.

    Reply
  3. Chanda Leer
    Feb 23 2011

    The city retirement was lowered to 1.3 match to 1 – not 1 to 1. We are still way too “generous”.

    Reply
  4. Jane H Kinsey
    Feb 23 2011

    A superficial start to think the citizens are getting action on the issue. Thanks for the information about how he still lines his pockets.

    Reply
  5. Fletch
    Feb 23 2011

    @Roger – I think you need some matching to be comparable to private industry if you want to attract good employees. However, I’d match maybe 50 cents to the dollar up to a certain percentage – like 8. If you save 8% of your salary, I’ll match half and you’re getting 12%. That’s competitive, but not over-the-top silly.

    @Janet – It’s a very low wage state in part becuase it’s also a very low cost-of-living state. It’s good when those go hand-in-hand.

    I’m a believer that there is enough waste in almost any organization – public or private – that you could trim about 10% of the fat off at any given point in time. Nice gesture by the mayor, but I would like to see some real savings. I’m in favor of good incentive programs. If a city or county employee can come up with a sound project or idea that can save time or money or create efficiencies, and that can be translated into real dollars saved, I have no issue with that person getting a small bonus. You save me $5,000 and I’ll gladly give you $500 as a thank you. I’m ahead $4,500 and you’ll be ahead $500 and it will make you want to find another $5,000 in savings for me. I like that mentality. Too many gov’t entities – city, county, schools, roads, whatever – spend 100% or more of their annual budget, simply in fear that if they don’t spend it all, they won’t get as much in the budget next year. That mentality hurts us all. If you don’t need to spend it, don’t spend it.

    Reply
  6. Examples R Us
    Feb 23 2011

    The Mayor increased his salary to 100K – he could have vetoed the City Council recomendation.

    Here’s what Setting an Example looks like: Mayor take a 5% pay cut, eliminates two of the extravagant eight or nine Mayoral positions (like with four classified public safety officer position cuts) and all mayoral staff retirement contributions are eliminated for one year, pending growth in city sales tax receipts. Retain health benefit contribution for remaining staff.

    Reply
    • Gene
      Feb 23 2011

      Our current mayor is not getting a pay raise.

      Reply
  7. Roberta
    Feb 24 2011

    Gene, you are correct however he still gets his 12% pension with no matching requirement and that goes for the directors too.

    Reply

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