A pension dispute involving Westport’s Police Department has drawn national attention.
The Economic Policy Institute — a left-leaning think tank — is focusing on a dispute between the police union (AFSCME Local 2080) and the town.
Negotiations have gone to binding arbitration. A decision may come this fall.
“Why would Westport mess with a system that works?” asks economist Monique Morrissey on the EPI’s Working Economics Blog.
“The police department is tiny and the town can easily afford the benefits. In the 2015-2016 fiscal year, spending on police pensions amounted to just 1.2 percent of the town’s revenues, so even drastic benefit cuts wouldn’t noticeably affect anyone’s tax bill.
“Westport’s property tax rate is already among the lowest in the state, though taxes are high in dollar terms as would be expected for a wealthy town in a high cost of living area.”
Morrissey notes that Westport police officers do not receive Social Security, nor is overtime factored into their final pensions. She frames efforts to reduce Westport police pensions as part of “an ideological campaign” to get rid of pensions in favor of riskier 401(k)-style savings plans.
She says that kind of campaign could backfire as municipalities start to restore benefits in an effort to prevent losing experienced officers.
“The 64 members of the Westport police department, who signed on for what they thought was a career of public service that would be rewarded with a secure retirement, may still pay a price, unless the citizens of Westport realize that that the police force they have come to rely on may be torn apart by shortsighted pension ‘reforms,’” Morrissey writes.
Click here to read Morrissey’s full story.