RTM Meeting Recap – March 6, 2018

SHORT SUMMARY:

Disclaimer: What’s below is my interpretation of the meeting and not an official communication from the RTM or from the Town of Westport

The RTM did the following:

  1. Reappointed Patricia Cimarosa to the Board of Directors of the Westport Transit District,
  2. Approved a pension agreement between the Town of Westport and our local Firefighter’s union,
  3. Approved a collective bargaining agreement between the Town of Westport and our local Firefighter’s union, and appropriated $200,000 to meet the town’s obligations under this agreement for the current fiscal year, and
  4. Authorized the town to purchase 1 additional dump truck – 6 dump trucks rather than 5 – for the same amount ($850,000) already appropriated by the RTM. 

These agenda items solicited little to no commentary or questions from the public or individual RTM members.  In fact, after announcements, the meeting was only 50 minutes long.  Given that the footage of each agenda item is relatively short, I’ve included time markings for the start of each agenda item for the official town video instead of creating an edited version of the same footage.

The WestportNow.com article about the meeting is available here.

 

DETAIL:

AGENDA ITEM #1:   The reappointment of Patricia Cimarosa to the Board of Directors of the Westport Transit District:

APPOINTEDDiscussion of this agenda item begins at 20:20 in the town video and was moved first on the agenda so that Ms. Cimarosa wouldn’t have to stay for the entire meeting.

The Westport Transit District (“WTD”) provides public transportation in the Town of Westport with mini-buses operated under subcontract with the Norwalk Transit District.  Its services include commuter shuttles to the Metro North stations and daytime door-to-door transportation for seniors and citizens with disabilities.

The RTM formed the WTD in 1968 and appoints its board of directors, which consists of two members that serve for staggered four-year terms.

Ms. Cimarosa’s resume describes her seven-year experience as the Executive Director of the Westport Housing Authority and leadership roles in other jobs.  Her accomplishments as current director for the WTD include:

  • Making operational changes resulting in $90,000 cost avoidance annually,
  • Enlisting the help of community volunteers to launch a marketing campaign, which you can read more about here and here, and
  • Gathering data on how service and and awareness of WTD services could be improved.

The RTM voted unanimously to reappoint Ms. Cimarosa to the WTD board of directors.

 

AGENDA ITEM #2 The approval of a pension agreement between the Town of Westport and our local Firefighter’s union:   

APPROVEDDiscussion of this agenda item begins at 26:40 in the town video.

Attorney Floyd Dugas summarized key features of the pension agreement and provided some background information regarding the negotiations.  As Mr. Dugas explained, in October 2017 the RTM approved a prior version of the same pension agreement.  The firefighters subsequently rejected the agreement and the parties engaged in further negotiations.  The firefighters recently approved a new version of the pension agreement.  An important modification in this agreement is that employees hired before July 1, 2017 will contribute 9% of their salaries to the defined benefit program (e.g., a traditional pension) rather than 10%.  This change will result in increased expenses for the town of $850,000 over the next 20 years.

There are no other changes in the pension agreement for employees with 20 years of service.  They will continue to be in a defined benefit program with more generous cost of living adjustments than their less-tenured colleagues.  These employees may retire as of July 1st at the later of (1) 20 years of service or (2) age 49.

Screen Shot 2018-03-03 at 8.25.42 PMThere are additional changes to the pension plans of employees hired before July 1, 2017 but who have not yet served 20 years.  According to Mr. Dugas, these changes bring the pension in line with neighboring towns in Connecticut, and include:  (1) capping the cost of living adjustment to pension payouts at 2.75% after age 65 (rather than 4%), (2) reducing joint and survivor benefits, and (3) increasing the retirement age so that employees may retire as of July 1st at the later of (a) age 52 (rather than age 49) or (b) the completion of 20 years of service.

Employees hired on or after July 1, 2017 will be in a hybrid program that includes both a defined contribution plan (e.g., a 401K), where the town would match 50% of employee contributions up to a total of 3% of employee salary, and a defined benefit plan.  The defined benefit plan will have no cost of living adjustment and the employee contribution to the plan will be 8% of employee salary.  These employees may retire as of July 1st at the latest of (1) age 55 with 20 years of service, (2) 20 years of service, or (3) age 60 plus 10 years of service.  Mr. Dugas said that, in his opinion, this hybrid plan strikes a good balance; it reduces pension costs for the town – which, with employee turnover, will eventually reach $1 million savings per year – but sill provides competitive and attractive benefits to prospective new hires.

The RTM voted unanimously to approve the pension agreement.

 

AGENDA ITEM #3 The approval of a collective bargaining agreement between the Town of Westport and our local Firefighter’s union and an appropriation of $200,000 for the town to meet its obligations under this agreement: 

APPROVEDDiscussion of this agenda item begins at 52:01 in the town video.

Mr. Dugas’ explained the key features of this agreement, which has a term of July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2020 and includes the following changes:

  • For employees that choose the High Deductible Health Plan and HSA, the employee contributions towards the total premium paid by the town would increase from 9% to 11%, 9% to 12%, 10% to 13%, and 11% to 14%, for the 2017-2018, 2018-2019, 2019-2020, and 2020-2021 fiscal years, respectively,
  • An increase in the minimum number of union employees on duty during a shift from 14 to 15, which mirrors the Fire Department’s current practices.  The agreement provides that this number may be reduced to 14 in the event of Town-wide layoffs due to a severe fiscal downturn,
  • Screen Shot 2018-03-03 at 8.30.28 PMThe wage matrices in schedule A have higher base salaries for all positions and levels of experience.  The inflation adjustment on the vertical axes seem to assume CPIs for the fiscal years 2017-2018, 2018-2019, 2019-2020, and 2020-2021 of 2.5%, 2.25%, 2.5%, and 2.5%, respectively.  Mr. Mall commented that these percentages (which, to me, seem high) also reflect the extent to which to town of Westport values its first responders.

The RTM voted 32-0 to approve the employment agreement and appropriate $200,000 to meet the town’s current fiscal-year obligations under this agreement.  One RTM member abstained from the vote.

 

AGENDA ITEM #4 Authorization for the town to purchase 1 additional dump truck – 6 dump trucks rather than 5 – for the same amount of money ($850,000) already appropriated by the RTM. 

AUTHORIZED

Discussion of this agenda item begins at 1:02:00 in the town video.

In March 2016 the RTM appropriated $850,000 and approved the issuance of bonds to finance the purchase of 5 dump trucks.  These dump trucks were to replace 5 existing dump trucks purchased in 2002.  Peter Ratkiewich, the Director of Public Works, received a favorable bid that will allow the town to purchase 6 Freightliner dump trucks with the same funds that were already appropriated.

By purchasing the additional Freightliner dump truck now, the town will only need to purchase one Lo Pro dump truck next year rather than the two it would have otherwise bought pursuant to the town’s long term capital plan.  While the Freightliner dump truck costs around $8,000 more than the Lo Pro dump truck it will replace, the Freightliner dump truck can also be used for plowing/sanding tasks that the town would have otherwise needed to sub-contract out if it had purchased the Lo Pro truck instead.  The net result should be cost savings to the town over the 10-12 year life of the Freightliner dump truck.

The RTM voted unanimously to authorize the purchase and bond financing of the additional Freightliner dump truck.  For purposes of this summary I have simplified the RTM’s official resolution, but you can see all 2.5 pages of it, including more details regarding the bond financing, here (click and then zoom in) under resolution #3.

Disclaimer: This summary is my interpretation of the meeting and not an official communication from the RTM or from the Town of Westport.