Doing time

New city hires must put in 25 yrs. for lifetime benefits

In a bizarre turn of events Wednesday, the Jersey City Council approved a municipal retirement measure, only to pass another one minutes later that overrode the first.
Under the second ordinance passed, newly hired city employees will have to work for the municipality for 25 years in order to be eligible for lifetime benefits from Jersey City. Currently the law requiring 25 years of service applies only to non-unionized workers.


Laws “need to be adopted now to reduce future expenses.” – John Seborowski Sr.

The law’s purpose is to put an end to the practice of “tacking,” in which non-unionized city workers are able to collect lifetime benefits when they retire from Jersey City employment, even if they spent the majority of their government careers elsewhere and worked only a few years for the municipality.
Supporters of the ordinance have argued that Jersey City taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay expensive retirement benefits for employees who only spend a few years working for the city; generous benefits should be reserved only for those workers who dedicate their entire careers – 25 years – to Jersey City.
Other council members have argued, however, that lifetime benefits should be offered to people who put in at least 20 years of service. They’ve said that offering such benefits is important to attracting qualified applicants to municipal jobs.
The City Council, ironically, considered two competing pieces of legislation Wednesday – one that would have given lifetime benefits to 20-year workers, and another that would give such benefits only to 25-year workers. Oddly, both measures passed, with the 20-year limit getting approved first, followed by passage of the 25-year limit minutes later.
Both ordinances passed by a vote of 5 to 3. Councilmember Viola Richardson was not present for Wednesday’s meeting.
Corporation Counsel Bill Matsikoudis confirmed that passage of the second ordinance effectively cancelled out passage of the first.
The law does not apply to current non-unionized employees. It applies only to new hires in the future.

Public speaks out

Speaking in favor of the 25-year requirement, Jersey City resident John Seborowski Sr. took to the podium several times Wednesday to urge the council to reject anything less than two and a half decades of service from city workers before granting lifetime benefits.
“This ordinance is needed to bring future lifetime benefits under control. I do not believe it is unreasonable or unfair to require someone to work for Jersey City for 25 years before they can earn lifetime benefits,” said Seborowski Wednesday, quoting from a letter he sent to each council member last fall. “Jersey City is suffering in these troubling financial times and the taxpayers of Jersey City are currently taxed to their limit. Municipal taxes have become a burden to all…There will not be any overnight solution to this financial mess, but [laws] need to be adopted now to reduce future expenses.”
Seborowski was among several residents who expressed support for the measure, but he was the most vocal proponent.
Council President Peter Brennan and members Steven Fulop and Nidia Lopez agreed with Seborowski, voting against the 20-year requirement.
“Jersey City residents should not have to pay for lifetime benefits for someone who hasn’t served the longest term possible,” said Fulop, agreeing with Seborowski’s comments to the council.
The 25-year requirement for lifetime benefits does not currently apply to unionized city workers. The requirement would only apply to unionized employees if it were incorporated into a negotiated labor agreement with the city.
E-mail E. Assata Wright at

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