Retirement benefits sink Thomasboro chief negotiations

THOMASBORO — Negotiations with a candidate for Thomasboro chief of police broke down over retirement benefits.

Mayor Tyler Evans said the board had been discussing terms of employment with Thomasboro patrolman Jeff Metzler, who held out for participation in the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund. He had been selected after a review of applicants at an Aug. 31 special meeting.

Metzler is a part-time employee as is retiring Police Chief Keith Willis. The board is seeking a full-time police chief.

The board discussed IMRF participation in open session at the Sept. 5 regular meeting, but was unable to promise Metzler it would do so. At that point, trustees looked for input to Metzler, who was seated in the audience.

“Retirement is a big hang up,” Metzler said. “If there isn’t an answer tonight, I appreciate the opportunity, but I would have to decline the offer.”

The village currently pays retirement benefits for the only full-time position, that of public works superintendent. A 3 percent match is paid into a 401k.

IMRF participation would increase village expenses considerably. It would require paying into the system for every employee working more than 1,000 hours, Village Clerk Jeremy Reale said. So  in addition to the public works superintendent and police chief, that could include treasurer, office manager, part-time patrolmen and any part-time public works employees.

Reale explained that under IMRF, employer contributions are determined by a rate study that may take months to complete.  Employees make a contribution equaling 4 ½ percent of annual salary.

“Ballpark figure, probably a 13 percent employer (of annual salary) share for each qualified employee,” Reale said.

In addition, the village would have to pay in an amount equal to contributions for years previously worked, up to a maximum of five years. Evans estimated that would come to more than $14,000 just for the public works position.

The argument for IMRF participation was that it would attract better-qualified applicants.

“If we make benefits better, we will keep people longer,” Trustee Ronda Scott said.

Trustee Dustin Rhodes said he thought the benefits package currently paid was comparable to any paid for other jobs in the area, but Trustee Anna Martin said, “I think we have to look at that most police officers are offered IMRF. We have to look at the quality we want.”

Trustee Kyle Henegar was troubled by the lack of information.

“I do not want to make an educated guess and then find out we can’t do it,” Henegar said.

That also troubled Trustee Tony Grilo.

“It would be extremely irresponsible to make a decision tonight,” Grilo said. “I really feel we should do more research.”

Further, as Evans and Rhodes pointed out, participation in IMRF is permanent.

“It’s a large amount of money,” Rhodes said. “If we find out five years down the road it was a bad decision, we’re still there.”

Evans said he would prefer to see the village “going in a positive direction” in terms of growth first.

While Metzler has bowed out, the IMRF issue may not be dead. Rhodes volunteered to look into it further.

Other business
In action taken, the board authorized a revised contract with the Illinois Municipal League Risk Management Association for insurance. It also authorized placement of a stop sign at the intersection of Church Street and the northern access road to the grain elevator.

An amendment to the planning and zoning code regarding minimum setbacks for fences was tabled indefinitely. An update to the burn ordinance was delayed to October.

There were reports from the building permit/liquor license and civil defense/parks committees.

Regarding parks, Rhodes reported that Altamont Co. has donated used playground equipment and chain link fence. Both will be stored for the future due to needed refurbishment and lack of funds.

Concerns raised by residents included keeping storm drains free of debris and dangerous dogs at large.

Public Works Superintendent Tyler Martin said storm drains were checked after heavy rains. Evans said the animal issue would be discussed at the October meeting.


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