Tooele Co. employees’ retirement benefits may be cut

Posted at 9:36 PM, Apr 30, 2013
and last updated 2013-05-01 00:25:43-04

TOOELE COUNTY, Utah - Tooele County employees may be losing their retirement benefits as the county cuts costs.

The county has been drastically trimming its budget for over a year now, from layoffs to cancelling the fair. Now employees could lose everything they've worked so hard for.

Dozens of people packed a meeting Tuesday night demanding answers from the county commissioners.

At one point, County Commissioner Shawn Milne told the crowd, "Just like everything else in life nothing is guaranteed."

The statement was met with laughter and disbelief. Tooele County says not only is it running out of money, but they still need $4 million by the end of the year.

In August of last year, 22 county employees were let go. The next month, department heads were forced to cut 15 percent from their budgets, resulting in 22 more layoffs. Last month, the county wiped out two entire departments.

Now city leaders say they may take away retirement benefits to save money, an idea no one was happy about.

"Please consider something else okay? Consider a compromise," said one person in the meeting.

"I work at the center as head cook . I worked my buns off there for 20 years knowing I would have benefits. The pay sucked but I had it in my head that if you do this for 20 years I'd be okay. Well I made it to 22, now you guys are taking it all away," said Linda, a county employee.

Tooele County employees are angry after they were told starting July 1, they will no longer get retirement benefits, that goes for both current and retired employees.

An elderly woman in the meeting stood up, saying, "You're not only affecting us, you're affecting our children. We're 80 and 81, we could die today and our kids will be stuck with this bill. It's just not fair."

Person after person stood up to express outrage, demanding to know how the county got itself in so much debt and why they weren't pushing to generate more revenue.

"I want to know what you're doing to increase revenue when a few meetings ago you had a man who wanted to build a business, pay mitigation fees, hire employees and pay taxes and you denied him," said one man in the meeting.

"It's one piece of a larger puzzle, we've been taking taking from our employee base we need our employee base to justify any of the stuff that taxes pay for, we have to have that employee base," said County Commissioner Shawn Milne when asked why they decided slashing retirement benefits would be a good idea to cut the county's deficit.

Employees also wanted to know if elected officials will be suffering the consequences with them but there was no clear-cut answer to the question.

No decision on retirement benefits were made Tuesday night. The county may revisit the issue at its next meeting May 14.