Pension plan should be scrapped: Ellsworth

Louis Power
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Mayoral candidate Ron Ells-worth spoke out against the city's current pension plan for elected officials Thursday, calling the pensions "long-term liabilities created by short-term politicians."
As of now, he said, if an elected member serves 16 years on council, they are entitled to a full pension - 60 per cent of their taxable income. At eight and 12 years, they are entitled to smaller amounts.
"I don't think that's fair. I think that's putting a undue burden on the taxpayers," he said.
"Our pension plans are unfunded liabilities, which means that at present we have about $100,000 being paid out in pensions to eight people."
He said, depending on the selection of candidates, the amount of taxpayers' dollars being doled out for pension plans could double.
"I think that's one thing that attracts politicians and candidates to stay longer and stay involved longer," he said. "I would like to see that removed so it's no longer an incentive to remain for 16 years."
Ellsworth said he is concerned candidates could be attracted by the perks rather than the work itself.
"It's certainly an incentive to stay here longer, to be involved longer, 'cause you put more in your pocket. But we should be here to represent the citizens of St. John's, and that should be our goal and our focus when being elected," he said.
He said he would rather have no pension plan at all for elected members of city council.
"If I had my way, to be honest with you, I'd throw it out altogether," he said. "The majority of people on council have jobs elsewhere or retired from elsewhere. This is not their primary job, so why do you need a secondary pension?"
He said his recommendations on the matter probably wouldn't fly with the rest of council, but he'd try nevertheless.
"I don't think I'll get that put through, but at least I could push to get a change," he said.
"The day that we stop serving the community is the day that they should stop paying us."
During an elected member's time serving, he said, effort should be made to stay on top of issues in the city and to take part in the city's standing committees.
"If they're not showing up to committee meetings … the pay should be reduced accordingly, no different than any other person in the workforce. If you're not going to work, you're not getting paid, and that should be seen here at city hall," he said.
Ellsworth, currently the city's deputy mayor, has been serving on city council since 2005 and is vying for the mayor's seat for the first time. He is up against current Mayor Dennis O'Keefe and local musician Mark Wilson in the Sept. 29 election.

lpower@thetelegram.com

Geographic location: St. John's

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