tp-nb-jamie-hachey-saint-john-police

Jamie Hachey, the president of the Saint John Police Association, said the various employee groups are discussing creative solutions to the city's pension crisis. (CBC) (CBC)

Saint John's city managers will continue meeting with employee groups this week as they try to hammer out a deal that will solve the city's pension crisis and spare workers from significant concessions.

Saint John is trying to work out an arrangement with the provincial government to spread out the payments of the city’s $123-million pension deficit to avoid significant cuts to city services or property tax hikes.

Representatives from city employee groups held meetings between themselves to discuss ways to avoid facing cuts on Friday but those discussions quickly broke down over differences between the unions.

There were also some impromptu meetings held between some of the employee groups and Pat Woods, the city manager.

The city is expected to consult further with officials from the provincial government before returning this week to discussions with its workers.

Jamie Hachey, the president of the Saint John Police Authority, said they presented a number of "creative solutions" to Woods that included options that do not require workers to make major concessions.

"We're examining a lot of out of the box type scenarios that would be beneficial to the investment portfolio," Hachey said.

City councillors have already vowed not to raise property taxes to deal with the $123-million pension shortfall they are required by law to make up.

Various proposals considered

The city has already asked its workers to accept wage freezes and fewer benefits as a way to cope with the pension deficit.

The need to find further savings could potentially lead to a heavier burden being put on the city’s employees as Saint John’s politicians try to correct the financial shortfall.

Saint John’s original request to the provincial government to extend the payback period to 25 years was rejected in the spring.

That forced the city staff to revisit its financial options. Saint John has now sent six different options to the provincial government that include varying degrees of salary and benefit reduction, property tax increases and payback length.

The city manager has developed the different scenarios but they have not been voted on by council.

Payback lengths of 15 and 20 years have been considered along with property tax increases of up to 16 cents per $100 of assessed property value.