The changes on the Chattanooga Fire & Police Pension Consensus Recommendation by the Task Force made on Jan. 8 was a good decision. I agree with most of it due to the fact that the pension is 63 percent funded.
According to the Task Force and the Fire & Police Pension Board, the losses are a result of the 2008 stock market crash which affected a lot of the pensions in the United States. I got this information by going to the pension board meetings and the task force meetings by asking questions and hearing what was said at the meetings.
The following things I liked were: Officers and firefighters getting killed in the line of duty their beneficiaries getting 100 percent and not the current 68.75 percent. Elderly beneficiaries getting $750 a month and not the current $500. The vested members of both department still being able to retire at 25 years as I did. The ones on the drop with 24 years still being able to get the current drop if they stay for three more years.
I agree with the contribution being raised for employees of both departments to help keep the pension solvent. I don't agree with new employees having to work until they are 55 years of age or 30 years especially for firefighters who have to go through the yearly physical fitness test which is very hard for a firefighter to do in their late 40's. A police officer can work until they are 55 years of age, but when you get past 50 years of age and you are working on the street you can get injured much easier than when you were in your 30's or 40's.
What I am saying being a firefighter or a police officer is a young person's job and you have to stay in shape to finish your career. The changing of the age is also a possible means to keep the pension more solvent over the course of the years. I like the third party actuary review of the drop every five years as this would help keep the pension solvent.
One thing that I did not like was the change in our 3 percent cost of living raise which affects me and about 700 plus retirees. I wish the task force would have gone with the pension board's recommendation of basing the Cola on the current stock market. The recommendation now for the Cola is based on banding on the amount of two percent to 1.5 percent and one percent for an overall Cola of 1.5 percent next year and the Cola will not be compounded as it was in past years. According to the Task Force, until the plan is 80 percent funded on a market basis, then CPI is to max out at three percent inclusive of the Cola. The two percent Cola will be at the bottom of the scale, the 1.5 percent percent will be in the middle of the scale and the one percent will be at the top of the scale.
The totality of the circumstances regarding the Task Force Consensus Recommendation I thought was fair.
I want to thank the Fire and Police Departments' unions, the Task Force, the mayor's office, retirees of both departments and the Fire and Police Pension Board for working on this solution.
Sergeant Ralph S. Brown Retired CPD