The City of St. Louis lost round three this month in trying to hijack its fire fighters pension fund. Meanwhile, Fire Fighters Local 73 pre-filed a bill in the state legislature to restore their original pension proposal that they said could save the City $2.3 million more than any of the plans put forth by the Board of Aldermen and mayor.
The fire fighters filed the bill after a bizarre series of events that saw the City adopt a third ordinance on Dec. 14 —Board Bill (BB) 109 — and signed into law by Mayor Francis Slay that was supposed remedy serious flaws in two earlier bills that were already enjoined by the courts (Board Bills 11 and 12.). But on Jan. 3, after the Firemen’s Retirement System on Jan. 2 once again sued the City over this latest attack on the pension fund, Circuit Judge Robert Dierker issued a third injunction against the City to prevent BB 109 from taking effect on Feb. 1.
A trial on BB 109 will probably occur in mid-March or April.
TO SAVE TAXPAYERS $$
The bill filed in the state legislature by Fire Fighters Local 73 would revise their pension plan to:
• Modify disability requirements to prevent abuses that were found in the current plan. Bascially, if a fire fighter is disabled but can work other less strenuous jobs, he/she would be offered re-training for another career field and then would receive only a 25 percent disability. If a fire fighter is totally disabled and can’t work at all, they would continue to earn 75 percent of their salary.
• Create a new lower second pension tier for new hires.
• Institute a new actuarial accounting system that would calculate pensions in a different manner and save the fund substantial money. The fire fighters first offered this change but the Slay Administration fought it. Yet later, quietly, the Administration used the same calculations for their own proposed counter plan.
CITY’S GOAL: CONTROL NOT SAVING $$$
“The City’s plans are truly not about saving taxpayers’ money, they are about gaining total control over the fire fighters’ pension so that they can change benefits at will and, if they desire, stop making payments into the plan totally as they have done before,” said Fire Fighters Local 73’s new president, Demetris Alfred. The City already lost three major legal battles before the Missouri Supreme Court trying that illegal approach.
“Our plan should save the City up to $2.3 million in the first year alone. Compound that over the years — and that number will grow annually as fewer fire fighters decided not to retire or are unable to retire on full disability pension under the proposed new rules — and the savings will be much greater,” Alfred said.
“We want to save the City money, but it has to be done the right way, the legal way, and that’s through Jefferson City passing enabling legislation allowing the City to take action. We want to work with the City and the mayor,” Alfred stressed, adding:
“Our job is to keep people safe. We take pride in that. But changes have to be legal, and we are going to see that they are to protect the citizens of St. Louis and our fire fighters who put their lives on the line every time they rush to a fire.”