Mayor, others may benefit from pension plan

Mayor Pat Murphy will be among those to potentially benefit from a change in the pension policy for New Milford town employees.

Three elected positions -- tax collector, town clerk and mayor -- are held by people with longevity sufficient to make an adjustment to the Pension Committee's previous rules.

Starting Dec. 1, 2015, those elected positions will be vested in the pension plan after only four years.

Other town employees must be employed for 10 years to be vested.

Cathy Reynolds has been the tax collector for many years and Noreen Prichard, while new in her job as town clerk, has for many years been a town employee.

Mayor Murphy has served as the town's chief executive for nearly 11 years.

"A mayor will have to serve two (two-year) terms to reach the four-year mark," explained Tom Pilla, the committee chairman, "while a town clerk or tax collector's term is four years. This way, the employees holding these positions are compensated even if they only serve for four years."

According to the town's finance director, Ray Jankowski, since Mayor Art Peitler's three terms from 1995 to 2001, the mayor's position has received an "in lieu of" payment of 5 percent of its annual salary.

Prior to that, there had been no added compensation to a mayor's salary. Murphy's salary started at $79,380 annually and is now $89,871.

Starting Dec. 1, 2015, a mayor who serves two terms would receive a pension of about $5,100 a year after turning 65. He or she would not receive an "in lieu of" payment.

"I think this is only fair," Pilla said. "The town has to change how it looks at a mayor's position. It is under compensated and under paid."

For Murphy, the committee approved allowing her to be vested for a pension if she serves a seventh term.

"I'm willing to count the two years of this term, since Pat has given up her `in lieu of' payment for these two years," said Frank Wargo, a committee member. "Then if she is re-elected and serves two more years, she'd have the four years required to be vested."

Murphy said she had given up the "in lieu of" payment starting in July 2013.

Other neighboring municipalities have a pension vestment for the mayor's position.

In Danbury, a mayor is vested after five years in office. A mayor's term there is two years. The Danbury mayor's salary is about $107,000 annually.

"You don't get a full pension," said Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton. "It is based on your salary and how many years you worked at the job. You collect after (age) 65."

In Torrington, the mayor is vested after five years served to receive a one-time payment of six percent of the position's annual salary. The Torrington mayor's term is four years with an annual salary of $95,183.

Murphy's newly acquired ability to potentially be vested in the town's pension plan fell short of Pilla's original proposal. He had asked the committee to allow Murphy to be vested in the plan retroactive to her fourth year in office.

If the committee had approved, Murphy would pay back all "in lieu of" payments received plus two percent annual interest, thus buying into the pension plan for $49,000.

"This is just my idea," Pilla told the committee. "Pat's been working for the town for 11 years now as an employee. She would have been vested by now if she was any other employee."

The vote on Pilla's proposal was 2 to 2, with Democrats Frank Wargo and George Barnett opposing the plan while Murphy's fellow GOP, Pilla and Joanne Chapin, voted in favor.; 860-355-7322