Sunday, July 13, 2014

Airport pension subsidy eyed

February 20. 2013 1:30AM
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Luzerne County Council members will decide how to handle a pension subsidy for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport employees, county Manager Robert Lawton said at Wednesday's county retirement board meeting.

The airport administration wants Luzerne County to pay $113,000 toward retirement costs, while Lackawanna County would kick in $102,000.

The 2013 general fund budget adopted by Luzerne County Council includes the $113,000, Lawton said. However, Lawton and other Luzerne County officials have questioned the need to continue subsidizing the expense and have the option to cancel the allocation by amending the budget, he said.

Airport officials also have refused to add retirement costs to the airport budget, which should be done regardless of whether the expense is funded by the airport or county, he said.

They're concealing the true cost of operating the airport, Lawton said.

Lawton said he will ask council to vote to release or stop the payment.

Legal counsel must research the implication on airport employee pension plans if council votes against the payment, officials said.

If council agrees to keep the allocation in the budget, Lawton also will ask council members to decide if they want to force the airport to disclose the expense in the airport budget as a condition to release the funding, he said.

In other business Wednesday, the retirement board voted to change a practice allowing employees to buy back credit from previous part-time county employees to boost future pensions.

A board majority stopped the longtime practice in October because the purchase price was based on the employees' past part-time pay rates with no interest required, which hurt the employee pension fund.

The board voted Wednesday to allow the buy-back if employees pay all interest to the present.

The board oversees the employee pension fund, which was valued at $204.32 million at the end of 2012, officials said.

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