Bulloch County Sheriff Noel Brown appeared before commissioners on Tuesday night to make a request that would benefit not only MPs and jailers in his office, but all Bulloch County employees.
Brown spoke at the committee’s regular meeting in hopes of convincing county leaders to re-establish a committee once created to define comprehensive pension plans for county employees.
“We can do so much better. I know you did a lot. You added percentages, you added money, you did things purely for public safety, but what I’d like to see is this: all employees in the county have better pensions and health after employment, ”Brown told Commissioners. .
He was referring to a committee formed in 2007 or 2008 in 2007 that was ordered to discuss pension and health benefits for county employees. But the individuals were never formally appointed by the commissioners, and the committee did not meet or produce a report for the commissioners’ consideration.
“It’s time to have a discussion or consideration by elected officials to revisit this,” Brown said.
Commission President RoyThompson said he recalled the formation of the committee.
“I make people consider coming to work for us, and I’m sure the first thing they ask for is health benefits and pension benefits in other departments – can you have benefits? It’s not just about how much money they make, it’s about long-term plans and goals, ”Brown said.
“What I’m asking tonight is to put these boots on the ground, all these different facts and departments, department heads, get one or two from each, get this committee going to have the conversation about health benefits. and retirement benefits for men and women in our county government, ”he continued.
Brown said he came forward because he couldn’t institute such a plan without the vote and support of elected officials on the commission. “Let’s have a conversation and discuss it in front of all of you when it’s time. I’m asking for a motion to restart the committee. Thank you for listening to me and for the time.
Commissioner Timmy Rushing acknowledged Brown’s presentation and said he and others had also been contacted about the issues.
“Regarding the appointment of a committee, I have no problem doing so at the moment,” Rushing said. He then put forward a motion and it was immediately seconded.
During discussion of the motion, County Director Tom Couch asked for clarification on what the committee would specifically address. He asked if the committee should define a county pension plan and discuss post-employment health care plans for all county employees, which was confirmed.
Couch also said elected officials would be subject to a open meeting law, so at the pre-planning stage, it may make more sense for management to manage research and conduct a survey of employee views. , then make more formal recommendations to the board for consideration. County Attorney Jeff Akins echoed Couch’s position, saying it was not to avoid being subject to the open meetings law, but to address it informally at the committee level. One of the conditions of the Open Meetings Act is the “date of regular meetings”, which could be a problem for the committee when it is not clear who will serve.
Akins and Couch suggested that Rushing’s motion be quashed and
Sheriff Brown asked how this was done last time.
President Thompson said there were two people nominated by each department and they elected their own board members. Akins said at the time, the committee was appointed by the commissioners.
Couch said it might be best for employees who may have “strong feelings or opinions” about the topic not to discuss it in open meetings. “I think it allows everyone to speak freely and hear ideas more openly,” Couch said.
Couch also said the reason pension benefits were cut over a decade ago was due to the Great Recession and financial constraints. He said the momentum was lost and it was not lifted again. He said he was open to explore it.
Akins also mentioned that the commissioners could not appoint a committee on site because they did not know who would be ready to serve.
Couch ultimately recommended that commissioners give their consent, even if it was not in the form of a formal vote, to create a task force on retirement planning and post-retirement health benefits. The study committee will make recommendations and present them to Council for formal consideration. The Council will then have the option of modifying the recommendations or rejecting them entirely.
The commissioners agreed and Rushing quashed his motion. Ultimately, the decision was to allow employees to lead the way and determine how post-employment retirement and health benefits would work in their best-case scenarios. What this will cost the county will be determined at a later date.
In some counties, such as Jackson, Barrow and Banks counties which are similar in size and located in Bulloch, defined benefit contributions are paving the way for employee benefit plans, including allowing employees to retire at 62 years but to increase the health insurance plans to 65 years. and even offer supplemental insurance for health insurance plans. The City of Statesboro also has a defined benefit plan for its employees. However, details like these were not mentioned on Tuesday evening and will be left to the discretion of the committee.
As a constitutional officer, the sheriff would not benefit from any plan adopted by the commissioners.