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Westport Closes Pension Plans to New Employees

WESTPORT, Conn. – In an effort to lessen the burden on Westport taxpayers and shrink the town's Other Post-Employment Benefit liability, nonunion supervisory and nonunion nonsupervisory pension plans will not be available to new town employees, First Selectman Gordon Joseloff's office announced Wednesday.

The decision to close these pension plans to new employees hired on or after Jan. 1 came at Joseloff's request and was unanimously approved by the town's two nonunion pension boards Wednesday morning, the statement said.

"We want to be fair to our employees, but at the same time, we need to be fair to our taxpayers who have to bear the burden of the rising uncertain cost of current defined benefit plans," Joseloff told the pension board members.

"I have said repeatedly that Westport can no longer afford to continue to pay the level of benefits that have been approved in past agreements. What we are doing is no different than what other municipalities have done and are seeking to do, and what is now the practice in much of private industry."

A total of 91 employees of the town, the Board of Education and the Westport Public Library are covered by both plans, Joseloff's office reported. However, the plans will only be unavailable to employees hired on or after Jan. 1, 2012.

Other employees will not be affected by the changes, including those who may be promoted into nonunion supervisory or nonunion nonsupervisory positions, said Joseloff and Board of Finance Chairman Avi Kaner, who also chairs both pension boards.

New nonunion employees will be transitioned to a new town-defined contribution plan, which the town is developing, Joseloff and Kaner said.

"We're looking forward to working closely with the town's new finance director, Gary Conrad, and the new actuarial firm, Millilman, to design new employee benefit plans," said Kaner. "It is imperative to provide a competitive package for new employees, while also being fair to the taxpayer and reducing market risk."

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