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Council discusses employee benefits, water improvements

June 15th, 2017 under Top Stories
(Staff photo by ELVIRA LARA) The City of Presidio Mayor John Ferguson with council members at a regular meeting Thursday, June 8.

(Staff photos by ELVIRA LARA)
The City of Presidio Mayor John Ferguson with council members at a regular meeting Thursday, June 8.


PRESIDIO — Improvement was the central theme of the Presidio City Council’s June 8 meeting. Elected officials were presented with options to increase retirement benefits for city employees, as well as the opportunity to invest in reducing water leaks throughout the city and provide services to adjacent Las Pampas Colonia.

The meeting opened with a presentation from Texas Municipal Retirement System representative Lorraine Moreno. TMRS is a statewide retirement service that serves a total of 866 Texas cities, including Presidio. According to City Administrator Joe Portillo, the city is in a good position to improve employee benefits. He believes an increase would be an incentive to retain employees and boost morale.

With the current retirement plan, employees invest five percent and the city matches one-to-one.

“We can do a lot better,” said Portillo. “We can ask employees to do six percent and we match 1.5, for example.”

Moreno echoed the sentiments of Portillo by saying, “If you want to make any changes now’s the best time because the rate is so low. You’re basically over budget.”

Newly elected Councilman Samuel Carrasco expressed his concern for making a decision without first considering employee feedback.

“What do employees want?” he asked. “I would really like to get their input instead of making an executive decision. I want the employees to feel comfortable with what we’re doing for them.”

Moreno eased his concerns by stating that she will do personal interviews with employees to get their input.

City employee and economic development director Brad Newton took the opportunity to share his viewpoint at the meeting.

“I wouldn’t mind paying the six percent,” he said. “One percent is not too much to ask for.”

Moreno ended her presentation by giving an example of how significant the increase would be.

“The employees are not going to notice it on their paycheck,” she said. “They’ll see a dollar or two [less]. In the long run they’re going to be grateful.”

P City council recognition edited

City administrator Joe Portillo presented certificates of recognition to Edgar Sotelo and Dimitri Garcia for their prior service on the council.

The council made a motion to consider the change after receiving employee input. Financial advisor Whitney Brady followed Moreno’s presentation by introducing a 457 Compensation Plan to supplement the aforementioned benefits. The retirement plan is basically a 401K for government employees. It is entirely optional and, if adopted, would not cost the city any money. The purpose of the plan is to ”enable employees to do more,” explained Brady.

The City of Presidio currently does not offer a 457 Compensation Plan. If adopted, the plan would not affect the institutional retirement plan of the city. Participation is voluntary and employees are responsible for paying the $35 annual fee. Councilwoman Isela Nuñez thought it could be beneficial for employees.

“I think this is a great piggyback,” she said. “If what we choose is not enough they have this option to put in more.”

Akin to Moreno’s approach, Brady said she would conduct interviews with employees to gauge their interest. Council members abstained from making a decision until after the interviews.

Continuing with a focus on improvement, City Administrator Portillo briefly described plans for reducing waterline ruptures and leaks throughout Presidio. At the source of the issue are an ageing infrastructure and extremely high water pressure in some areas of the city. Improvements will be partially funded by the Border Environment Cooperation Commission, leaving the city with a predicted bill of $200,000.

The investment will be highly beneficial to Presidio. Waterline ruptures have become increasingly common and more frequent. Portillo said about 70 percent of man-hours are spent on servicing water problems.

“It’s sorely needed. This is money well spent,” he said.

A decrease in ruptures could free up time for employees to work on other municipal needs. More details are expected to surface as the project takes shape.

In other news, Councilman Alcee Tavarez was chosen to remain mayor pro-tem and the city is expected to create a new Planning and Zoning Board. Members will be appointed by the city council. Five vacancies will be announced on the city website and The International newspaper in the coming weeks.


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