Guidebook for City of Houston Municipal Employees
Section IV - Your Benefits
The city offers an outstanding comprehensive benefits program that is competitive with other employers. Regular, full-time employees are eligible to participate in these programs, as described in each plan. Some of the available benefits are:
• Medical and dental coverage
• Life insurance
• Employee Assistance Program
• Long- term disability coverage (for certain employees)
• Dependent-care reimbursement plan
• Voluntary insurance programs
• Workers’ compensation (see Section VI)
A complete description of all benefits can be found in the Understanding Your Benefits booklet. For more information, call (713) 837-9300 or go to www.houstontx.gov/hr/benpages/ben_main.htm.
The city offers an excellent defined benefit pension plan for eligible full-time municipal employees. The plan offers retirement income based on a percentage of your pre-retirement salary. It is calculated on the average of your highest 78 pay periods. You contribute a pre-tax percentage of your salary each payday, and the city makes an annual contribution. The Houston Municipal Employee Pension System administers the benefits.
Other features include disability benefits, survivor benefits for participants, a Deferred Retirement Option Plan (DROP), permissive military service purchase, reinstatement or conversion of eligible service time through purchase agreements, and survivor benefits forcovered surviving spouses and dependent children. After retirement, your pension increases via an annual cost of living feature.
Contact the HMEPS office for specific benefit information: (713) 759-9275 or www.hmeps.org.
The city provides an Employee Assistance Program that can help your family and you handle personal problems and stress. Use of the EAP is voluntary and confidential. EAP counselors are city employees who are experienced, licensed professionals. They include certified and licensed social workers, marriage and family therapists, and licensed professional counselors. They are trained to work with families and chemical dependency problems.
All city employees and their family members can use EAP services, which are free. If you are referred to a medical or mental health professional or program in the community, most services are covered by your health benefits plan. Contact information to make an appointment with EAP can be found at www.houstontx.gov/hr/eappages/eap.htm.
The City of Houston provides long-term disability benefits to municipal employees who have completed two continuous years of service and who are participants in the Compensable Sick Leave (CSL) Plan. Long-term disability benefits provide income if you are unable to work for an extended period of time due to an injury or illness. You can receive up to 70 percent of your pay after you have been continuously absent from work for 180 days (6 months). Long-Term Disability (LTD) benefits are also paid to employees who have work-related injuries. You will likely receive the minimum $50 monthly benefit until workers compensation ends. At that time the LTD benefit will be based on 50 percent or 70 percent of pre-disability pay.
For more information, see the Disability Benefit Plan booklet or the human resources liaison in your department.
Government employees have their own defined contribution/savings plan. The city offers a 457(b) plan, which is a pre-tax savings program for employees of local, state and federal governments. This plan is similar to a 401(k) or 403(b) plan: You can elect to defer a specific amount of your paycheck on a pre-tax basis through payroll deduction. The taxes on your contributions are deferred until withdrawal, as well as the taxes on any investment earnings from these contributions. You can borrow against your plan balance. You select from several investment options. Your money is eligible to be rolled over into an IRA or another qualified, pre-tax plan when your employment with the city ends. When you withdraw your money, you will be responsible for paying the normal income tax. The 457(b) plan is a great way to save for your financial security during your retirement years!
For more information, call (713) 837-9664, or visit www.gwrs.com.
The Houston Municipal Employees Federal Credit Union is open for membership to all city employees. The credit union offers savings accounts, payroll deduction, checking accounts, IRAs, certificates of deposit, new and used auto loans, signature loans, and credit cards. You may apply for a loan after one year of continuous service with the city. For further information, call (713) 699-0795 or (713) 224-6566, or visit www.hmefcu.org. The credit union is not operated by the city.
In order to alleviate congestion in the downtown area, the City of Houston offers flexible work schedules, free parking or subsidies for public transportation for many employees who work in the area. For more information about this benefit, consult your department human resources liaison.
It is important to recognize the ideas and achievements of employees. Here are a few of the ways we do that.
1. Employee Suggestion Program: Encourages employees to look for ways to improve work processes and products. If you have an innovative idea or suggestion about ways to correct a problem or show how a new way of operation would benefit the city, submit it to the ESP. An implemented, quantifiable suggestion can result in an award of 10 percent of the first year’s net savings, to a maximum of $2,500. An implemented non-quantifiable suggestion may receive an award from $50 to $500. Call (713) 928-4534 for suggestion forms and further information.
2. Mayor’s Service Awards: The City of Houston recognizes the value of your service and gives individual awards to employees with five, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40 and 45 or more years of continued service. Departments present five to 25-year service awards to their employees annually. The Mayor and Human Resources Department host an annual luncheon for employees with 30 and more years of service.
3. Bravo Awards: The highest recognition program for city employees. Awards are given quarterly to employees who do outstanding work and contribute to their communities. Visit www.houstontx.gov/hr/bravopages/bravo_frameset.htm for more information.
4. Extra Milers: is a quarterly publication of the Human Resources Department thatrecognizes individual employees for going the “extra mile” in assisting others or providing exceptional customer service. For additional information, go to www.extramilers.org.