CASA GRANDE — City Manager Larry Rains will be staying on the job even though he meets all of the requirements to retire under the Arizona State Retirement System.
Rains will retire and then the city will rehire him through a contract with a company called Smart Works Plus. Once the contract is approved, Rains will draw on his retirement and be paid through Smart Works at the same time.
Smart Works Plus was created several years ago when the state saw a large number of teachers retiring, even though many wanted to continue working, because they had maxed out their benefits under the Arizona State Retirement System, said city Human Resources Director Scott Barber.
Smart Works created a contract system that allowed districts to rehire teachers who had retired, many times at a lower rate of pay, in order to keep experienced teachers in the classroom. The program also allowed districts to continue to pay into the state retirement system at a lower rate in order to keep the system whole while the teachers drew retirement benefits. Smart Works has expanded its program to include other state and local officials that fall under the ASRS system.
The Smart Works program does not include officials, such as firefighters and police officers, who fall under the state’s Public Safety Personnel Retirement System, Barber said. That retirement system has its own program to allow retired public safety employees to defer their retirement benefits for up to five years.
Barber proposed a contract arrangement with Smart Works between the city and Rains at last week’s regular City Council meeting. The council unanimously supported it and will take a final vote on the matter on Jan. 21. If the contract is approved by the council, it would go into effect on Feb. 20.
Under the contract, the city would pay Smart Works Rains’ salary, which would have to be agreed upon but is currently proposed to be $151,353 under the contract. Rains is currently paid $195,484. The city would also pay a 4% service fee and contribute to the state retirement system on Rains’ behalf, Barber said. The contribution to the state retirement system would be at a lower rate than if Rains were a regular city employee.
Barber said that under the contract the city could save more than $75,000 and get to keep an experienced employee. Rains has worked for the city for more than 18 years as a finance director, deputy city manager and then city manager. Barber also pointed out that recruiting and replacing a city manager can take a significant amount of time and money and negatively impact some of the important economic development projects the city is working on and has planned for the future.
The agreement also includes an option that would allow the city to recruit people who have retired from other cities into major administrative positions, such as a finance director, through Smart Works, Barber said. The agreement, as it is currently written, would not be expandable to other city employees who may have retired.
Mayor Pro Tem Lisa Navarro Fitzgibbons said that while she felt it was good to have new people come into the administration, she also saw the need for continuity in the city manager’s position at this time.
Councilman Dick Powell said Rains has made a lot of progress in the last six to eight years he’s been with the city.
“We have someone who is leading us,” Powell said. “He’s the key to what we do and how we do it. It would be like shutting the engine off on a car before we reach the end of the road while we’re going uphill.”