Town joins state retirement system

Published 6:00 am Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Despite the reservations from its Finance Committee chairman, the Farmville Town Council agreed to join the Virginia Retirement System (VRS) during its Wednesday, March 10, town meeting.

The decision means town employees will have access to VRS plans beginning July 1.

Councilmember Greg Cole, who also serves as chairman of the council’s Finance Committee, was a lone vote against the proposal saying the decision was rushed and the town has many budget issues coming up that could be problems before adding in the additional $270,000 expense of VRS.

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“At this point, we don’t even know how we are going to pay for it,” Cole said. “We are kind of premature if we are trying to put something into place right now instead of trying to understand the complete impact of making this decision.”

Councilmembers Brian Vincent and Donald Hunter said the time to join VRS is now to make the town more competitive in attracting qualified applicants while saying the decision has been delayed for a number of years.

“The best way forward is to be involved in VRS to make ourselves competitive in that field,” Vincent said. “We kicked this around for a number of years. I just think it is time to roll on and get it done.”

“I think it is time for us to go ahead and pick what we need to do and secure our employees’ future instead of delaying this again,” Hunter said. “There’s a number of ways we can pay for it. We just have to sit down, hash out the numbers and move forward.”

Cole demonstrated his reluctance to move forward with VRS by laying out what could be a stark budget picture for Farmville in the coming year. He said the town is down approximately $500,000 to 2019 in meals and lodging taxes and said it is unclear when or if revenues would return to the 2019 level. In addition, Cole said the town has frozen positions they would like to fill as well as adding a director of finance position for the next budget year. Cole added that the Biden administration is not favorable toward the ICE facilities like the one in Farmville that provides $200,000 of funding for the town.

“When you begin to add up all those budgetary issues, you are well over $1 million that we have to find in the 2021-22 budget to cover,” Cole said. “I recognize and I appreciate the dedication and superior service of our staff. They deserve to have the best, and this is nothing about them. It is simply about being financially, fiscally responsible before we make a decision that is going to be a long-term decision that will have an impact on the finances of this town for many years to come.”

Cole proposed delaying the decision for 60 days to determine where the money would come from for the program, but a motion was made by Hunter to join the VRS system. The motion passed 6-1.

Near the end of the meeting, Police Chief Andy Ellington thanked the council for the decision on behalf of the town employees.

“I know this has not been an easy decision for you,” Ellington said. “I can tell you, you’ve got some really happy employees within the Town of Farmville.”