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West Haven News

Posted on: August 18, 2023

City Council approves police pension agreement

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WEST HAVEN, Aug. 18, 2023 — The City Council on Tuesday night, Aug. 15, unanimously approved a tentative agreement between the city and West Haven Police Local 895 to reinstate the department’s pension plan, Mayor Nancy R. Rossi announced.

Rossi, a longtime advocate of restoring the Police Department’s pension plan, said the labor contract will now head to the state Municipal Accountability Review Board for final approval.

If approved by the MARB, which oversees the city’s finances, the City of West Haven Police Defined Benefit Plan would become effective “as soon as practicable” and retroactive to July 1.

The MARB is tentatively scheduled to meet the week of Aug. 28 in Hartford.

In 2009, the city won an arbitration award to change the Police Department’s benefit package from a defined pension plan to a 401(k) retirement plan.

Since 2011, however, the department has lost 37 officers “solely due to the lack of a pension,” according to a pension summary presented at the council meeting by labor attorney Christopher M. Hodgson of Berchem Moses PC of Milford.

“Using $120,000 as a new-hire expense, that is $4.44 million — $383,000 per year — we spent on certifying officers to go work at other municipalities,” Hodgson said.

“The main focus of offering a pension is to have stability in the ranks,” Police Chief Joseph S. Perno said. “With the anticipated adoption of a pension, this should, in all practicality, stop the ‘revolving door of officers,’ which we have been experiencing since the pension was no longer offered.”

Hours before the council’s vote, the police union voted 95-2 in favor of the plan.

“This pension contract accomplishes the three main goals of the city and the (police) commission,” said John M. Carrano, a member of the Board of Police Commissioners. “First, the pension is competitive for the officers; second, it is affordable for the city; and third, it will retain both the younger officers and the more experienced officers, which is a huge win for the department as a whole and the residents of West Haven.”

The pension plan would cost the city $4.8 million over the next 20 years, or $240,000 per year, according to an actuarial analysis by Jennifer M. Castelhano, an associate actuary with Milliman of Windsor.

Rossi thanked the council for approving the plan and touted its potential cost savings to the city.

“If we can reduce the number of officers who leave our police force by two per year, this plan will pay for itself,” Rossi said. “If we can reduce the number of officers who leave by four to five per year, the plan will save the city money.”

The mayor added, “With every reduction in turnover, our police force is better experienced and closer to being fully staffed.”

Under the agreement between the city and police union, officers hired after Nov. 1, 2009, would transfer to the pension plan.

Affected employees would retain their vested defined contribution employer match balance and can use those defined contribution funds, or other funds, to buy past service back to the date of hire by contributing 8% of their base salary for each year of service purchased.

All other defined benefit plan provisions would be the same as those for officers hired before Nov. 1, 2009, according to the contract.

In addition, officers hired before Nov. 1, 2009, who have completed 25 years of service would receive a 5% increase in their pension calculation, from 60% to 65%.

— MICHAEL P. WALSH, Public Relations Information Coordinator

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