A letter that the office of Mayor Andy Berke drafted for police and fire unions to sign regarding pension changes failed to go forward.
Union officials said they are in support of the Pension Board's position on the issue. Terry Knowles, board president, has denied that the pension fund faces a crisis. The mayor's office says taxpayers cannot continue at the current rate of funding.
Lacie Stone of the mayor's office said, "During conversations with union representatives late last week, we discussed ways to make a joint statement and they indicated an interest in a letter. We sent them a draft and they came back with some edits.
"In the process, we made the decision not to move forward with the letter."
Ms. Stone said Wednesday, "Our goal has been to have a constructive dialogue regarding the pension and today the mayor had a very positive meeting with several members of the Pension Board. The mayor believes we should look forward to solving this important issue.
"With a pension fund $150 million underfunded, we should be working together toward solutions. The mayor is enthusiastically encouraging police officers and fire fighters, their representatives, and pension board members to embrace this process."
The proposed letter that came from the office of Stacy Richardson, the mayor's policy director, said:
Dear Mayor Berke,
Firstly, we would like to offer congratulations on presenting your first budget on Wednesday. Clearly, you understand the critical role that public safety plays in our community. There are several key points from the budget that we believe represent your support of our sworn officers: the inclusion of all sworn personnel in the across the board pay raise, the updated technology for fire apparatus, and the increase in manpower for the police force.
We would also like to express our desire for the City to maintain its current budgeted level of funding for the Fire and Police Pension Fund despite the statement from Pension Board that it be funded at $13.1 million. We believe it would be irresponsible for the City to decrease its contribution to the fund and are disappointed by the actions of the Pension Board.
We are committed to working with you, your administration, the Pension Board, our membership, and the Task Force to determine the best path forward for Chattanooga’s first responders. Thus far, your administration has demonstrated a willingness to work together and we look forward to participating in the process to find the best possible solution for our members.