Old city workers get pay increase

Financial crisis prevented pension hikes since 2006

The Durango City Council on Tuesday approved a one-time appropriation of $336,818 for $125 monthly cost-of-living increases for each of the old-hire police and firefighters as well as increasing survivors’ benefit for firefighters from 75 percent to 100 percent of their monthly benefit.

The old-hire police and fire pensioners have not had a cost-of-living increase since 2006. A $100 a month increase had been approved in September 2008, but was later rescinded in November 2008 because of the economic turmoil, according to a city memorandum.

Mayor Doug Lyon appreciated the pensioners for their understanding as the city went through some painful financial times.

The cost-of-living increases are “long overdue and well-deserved,” Lyon said.

Councilor Sweetie Marbury added, “I can’t say how much I appreciate all they have done for Durango.”

Former Police Chief Chris Wiggins, who worked for the city from 1962 to 1994, thanked the city on behalf of the pensioners.

The defined-benefit plans affect only those retired police and firefighters hired before 1977. They cover a total of 17 retired police, firefighters and surviving spouses.

Their monthly benefits vary widely from about $200 to $1,500 depending on their years of service and other factors, said Julie Brown, the city’s finance director.

The appropriation, taken from this year’s reserves or fund balance, breaks down to $130,123 for the policemen and $206,695 for firefighters, which also included funding to increase the survivors’ benefit for firefighters from 75 percent to 100 percent.

The survivors’ benefit for police was already 100 percent.