The COLA issue was number 25 on a lengthy Council agenda Tuesday night, placing its sometimes heated and controversial discussion to nearly midnight. In addition to one last plea during the Public Comment session, council members admitted that an overwhelming number of emails and calls had been received from residents, nearly 100% expressing disapproval.
Mayor Meier, expressing both the financial concerns and resident outcry, made a very unique motion in an attempt to find a reasonable resolve to the issue by doing something that benefits all Addison employees and current and future retirees, by reducing the Town’s unfunded liability and improving the sustainability of the pension fund. Here is the motion verbatim:
“I move to increase the sustainability of our employees’ pension fund by declining the ad hoc COLA increase for current retirees and instead, redirecting the budgeted $55,000.00 to a one-time payment this year to TMRS and our employees pension fund to reduce our current $4.5M unfunded liability.”
Dale Wilcox seconded the motion. For the next hour, fairly heated discussion ensued.
Despite taxpayer outcry, three Council members (Walden, Duffy and Angell) argued vehemently in favor of the COLA, particularly Paul Walden who at one point somewhat defiantly responded to Dale Wilcox when he reminded members that council members represent the taxpayers who actually foot the bill—taxpayer’s who had overwhelmingly let council members know they did not want them to vote for the COLA.
Walden’s defiant and angry response seemingly ignored that position and threatened that to not fund the COLA was to not value employees—thus seeming to put his loyalty more on employees. That didn’t settle well with Wilcox who reminded Walden of council decisions to increase salaries and even recently to purchase equipment for police officers to ensure safety. Others added that this was not a matter of how much our employees were valued but from a practical position, financial viability had to be considered. Was this a fiscally responsible thing to do long-term? For a brief period of time the discussion became personal—addressing the fact that Walden himself was a former municipal employee and has a brother who will benefit from the COLA. It was also pointed out that while not illegal for him to participate in this decision it certainly could have an appearance of impropriety—but Walden quickly responded he had no worry about an appearance of impropriety.
Walden stressed comparing Addison to other cities in TMRS who fund COLA, ignoring the fact that Addison’s unique housing mix, compared to all of those cities, has far fewer taxpayers to foot the bill. Ivan Hughes stressed that once he became armed with much more information it was clear to him that to fund this COLA resulted in numbers that were downright scary as the unfunded liability continued to mount. Duffy scoffed at the whole issue of unfunded liability, as if it was no big deal, saying that everyone has unfunded liability with their mortgages, their credit cards, a car loan, etc., seemingly to ignore that personal debt may well be protected through savings/and/or investments and at minimum, is a far-fetched comparison from a town’s $4.5M and mounting unfunded liability. Mr. Duffy may want to revisit the definition for “Unfunded Liability:” The amount, at any given time, by which future payment obligations exceed the present value of funds available to pay them.
Al Angell resorted to his point system, taking about ten minutes to one-by-one lay out several things he felt compelled to point out, including an emotional, drawn out personal expression of his personal passion for police, relating of incidents where paramedics had been of assistance to him personally.
Eventually the discussion was moved back to the practical realities of fiscal responsibility. Bruce Arfsten, who had been fairly quiet during much of the back and forth, summed up his feelings, mentioning the tremendous outcry he had received in emails and said, “”I can’t ignore the feedback.” Shortly thereafter the Mayor called for a vote. Meier, Hughes, Wilcox and Arfsten voted in favor of Meier’s motion. Duffy, Walden and Angell voted against it.
The motion passed 4-3. Thus, $55,000.00 will be paid in a one-time payment to TMRS to reduce our current $4.5M unfunded liability—a fiscally responsible move.
Before the Fray
A relatively calm, but jam-packed agenda moved quite smoothly during the early part of Tuesday night’s Council meeting. The meeting began with a proclamation acknowledging the service and accomplishments of Tom Lamberth of UDR who is leaving UDR after ten years leading the development of Vitruvian. Other noteworthy activity included:
- Approving a fee increase for the City Attorney services from $135 to $165 per hour.
- A lengthy discussion regarding the proposed new 20-year Master Transportation Plan. The Plan was approved 6-1 with Ivan Hughes voting against for concerns of how upgrades to sidewalks etc. would be implemented and paid for. (Watch the video for complete understanding of Hughes’ concern)
- Approved ordinance to reappoint Larry Dwight as Municipal Court Judge for a 2-year term running through December 31, 2018.
To be continued
With the time being 11:25 p.m. Meier suggested the final two items on the agenda—which would have covered adopting a revised housing policy for the town of Addison—be moved to the first Council meeting in January. Duffy, seemingly anxious to discuss the housing policy, grumbled about delaying the issue, complaining that it had been delayed previously and almost demanded to just go ahead and discuss it. Realizing that this could be another long, somewhat controversial discussion Arfsten expressed that while he wanted to discuss the issue, “Not in the middle of the night.” With that a motion was made to adjourn and passed.
Already it is becoming evident that the same Council members who were non-responsive to taxpayer’s opinions not to fund the COLA are likely to be just as non-responsive to taxpayer’s outcry for no more apartments. It remains to be seen, but if you have a strong opinion, make it known before the January 10 Council meeting. Despite the fact that three Council members chose not to listen to the taxpaying folks who foot the bill, the good news is, four Council members DID listen.
Get engaged. Make your opinion known. It’s your town and it does make a difference. As Dale Wilcox said, a Council member’s primary responsibility is to represent YOU, the taxpayer, and do what’s right for Addison and its future.
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