Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Potential change in retirement policy returns to City Council

City Council will vote on an amendment that would allow dependents of retirees a chance to get on a city health insurance plan without previous coverage requirements (Port City Daily photo/FILE)
City Council will vote on an amendment that would allow dependents of retirees a chance to get on a city health insurance plan without previous coverage requirements (Port City Daily FILE PHOTO)

WILMINGTON — Wilmington City Council will again address a potential change in city policy regarding the city’s retirement health insurance benefits.

During a City Council meeting at the beginning of the month, Councilman Charlie Rivenbark and Mayor Bill Saffo brought forward an amendment that would remove a requirement that any dependents of retirees had to carry city insurance at least one year prior to retirement to receive post-retirement benefits.

City Council tabled the topic after a meeting that left more questions than it did answers; council members are set to vote on approval or denial of the amendment Tuesday.

Rivenbark last week declined further comment, saying he had made his opinions known during the City Council Meeting. Saffo did not return requests for comment.

One of the reasons Rivenbark said during the previous meeting that he believed the change should be allowed is because of possible confusion over the requirements after a rule change in 2007. But that rule change did not make things more difficult for city employees and their dependents to acquire retirement health insurance, instead it did the opposite.

Prior to 2007, the city required dependents of a retiree to maintain at least three years on a city insurance plan prior to the employee’s departure – then the rules were changed to only require a dependent have coverage for one year.

At the meeting, other councilmembers cited concerns with changing the plan for the sake of one employee.

“I am sympathetic to the gentleman and his wife. The question was asked … is this just about this one employee?” Mayor Pro Tem Margaret Haynes asked.

Deputy City Manager Tony Caudle confirmed that the issue was being discussed due to a request from one employee.

If approved, any employee who started employment with the city prior to 2007, and retired after March 2018 would be able to add any dependent onto their city retirement health plan without a minimum coverage requirement.

“I am reluctant to change the rules for one individual. We surely have other employees who retired under the same program and they followed the rules in place at the time. So, it seems to be unfair to now change for one individual,” Haynes said.

Council agreed to table the discussion and asked Caudle to bring more information on the potential cost the city and tax payers could potentially be burdened with if approved.

City Council will vote on the modification Tuesday.


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