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Alameda City Council Approves Ordinance to Suspend Future Retirees Medical Benefits

By Erica Madison

“It’s far too generous of a benefit for us to continue.” Said Mayor Beverly Johnson.

On October 6, 2009, Alameda City Attorney Teresa L. Highsmith presented Ordinance No. 2497,  an attempt to reduce a $75 million OPEB expense.

“Passing this Ordinance is one step toward us being more fiscally responsible” said Mayor Beverly Johnson.

According to City attorney Teresa L. Highsmith, over the next thirty years Alameda City’s Other Post- Employment Benefits program (OPEB) will cost the City $75 million. In order to scale back on the cost of retirement benefits for public safety personnel, Highsmith has introduced Ordinance No. 2497.

Highsmith’s cost cutting solution asks the City Council to suspend medical benefits for future public safety personnel. This means anyone hired after November 1, 2009, will have their medical retirement benefits suspended indefinitely. Once the labor groups for these public safety employees have create a new medical retirement benefits plan, and the City Council approves the plan, then the future personnel will have medical benefits restored to them under the new agreed upon plan.

Most of the council members were confused by the request.

“Are you saying that if someone was hired in December, they would take the job knowing they have no right to receive retiree medical benefits?” Said Council Member Marie Gilmore.

Unfortunately this is the new plan, but it will give the City time to create a less expensive retiree medical benefits plan.

“I don’t think I know of any other City that has full medical benefits for personnel and their spouses.  This (the current medical benefits) is unaffordable.” Said Mayor Beverly Johnson.

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