Some Critical, Some Supportive As Fire And Police Pension Task Force Holds Final Public Meeting

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Some current and retired fire and police personnel were critical of a final report from the Fire and Police Pension Task Force that was presented Wednesday night at the Public Library.

But others were supportive, including Police Sgt. Craig Joel who said the changes were necessary "so the pension will be there for my family when I retire."

Tim Tomisek, a police representative on the panel, said, "We're trying to preserve our pensions. If we go down the road we're going now, we're not going to have a pension."

One man, who said he had suffered four heart attacks, said he has been retired for 19 years on a $27,000 pension. He said, "I depend on my three percent annual cost of living increases."

Retiree Kirk Salter said one group hopes to stop the plan with a court injunction. He said the plan is modeled on a similar one at Lexington, Ky. He said the Lexington plan is being disputed in federal court. Kurt Faires, an attorney on the panel, said Lexington was discussed early, but the task force decided to stop talking about it and deal with the local situation.

One change in the new plan that will go to the City Council is that the COLA will drop to between 1-2 percent, or an average 1.5 percent.

It was stressed to those attending that no retirees would see reductions in their current benefits.

The bulk of the reductions will affect new hires after the new system is in place.

Currently, personnel can retire after 25 years of service. For those currently not vested, it will go to age 50 if there is 25 years of service or to 28 years of service at any age. For new hires, it will go to age 55 plus 25 years of service or 30 years at any age.

Officials said there are some improvements in the plan including paying 100 percent of salary instead of 60 percent of salary to families of those killed in the line of duty. There are enhancements for certain categories of widows.

The DROP Plan will stay in place.  Currently, it must be taken after working 30 years. Under the new plan, it can be taken up to 33 years.

Travis McDonough, the mayor's chief of staff who fielded a number of questions involving a number of tense exchanges, said the process "has been stressful, but we were able to reach a consensus solution."

Officials said, "Based on prior analysis and analysis conducted through this process, it became evident that the current level of benefits was unsustainable for the Chattanooga Fire and Police Pension Fund in the long term. On a market basis, the Fund’s funded status dropped from 109.9% in 1999 to 51.8% in 2013 despite the city making its full annual required contribution (ARC).

"The Fund has the second worst funded status of all the non-TCRS plans noted by the Tennessee Treasury Department."

They said the 19 representatives on the panel "sought to minimize the impact on retirees and employees while ensuring that the fund remains sustainable for the long term and affordable for current and future taxpayers. These changes in no way decrease any vested financial benefits accrued by any participant or beneficiary of the fund. No retiree or beneficiary will see his or her current pension check reduced."

They said, "A recent report to the State’s Legislative Council on Pensions and Insurance found Chattanooga’s Fire and Police Pension Fund among the lowest funding ratios among defined benefit pension plans in the state (external to the Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System). The city’s recommended contribution rate as a percentage of payroll has more than tripled, increasing from 10.8 percent per the 7/1/1997 actuarial valuation to 35.9 percent per the 1/1/2013 actuarial valuation. On a dollar basis, the City’s recommended contribution over this time period has increased from $2.6 million as of 7/1/1997 to $13.3 million as of 1/1/2013, an increase of more than 400 percent. City will contribute $14.4 million in FY14.

Consultant VJ Kapur said the changes bring $227 million in taxpayer savings through 2038.


Police Kick In Door To Find Man Still Beating Much-Smaller Woman

Police responding to a call of a man beating a much smaller woman on Sunday found the attack still underway when they arrived. An officer had to kick in a door to rescue the battered victim. Francisco Rodolfo Cortez, 23, was charged with aggravated assault, aggravated sexual battery, especially aggravated burglary and interference with an emergency call.  In the early ... (click for more)

Knowles Says IMPROVE Act To Cause Certain Fees To Rise In Clerk Offices Across The State

County Clerk Bill Knowles said the IMPROVE Act that was recently signed into law by Governor Bill Haslam to fund 1,000 road and bridge projects across the state will cause certain fees to rise in all 95 county clerk offices.   In order to fund the improvements, one portion of the plan calls for an increase in vehicle registration fees.  Mr. Knowles said ... (click for more)

Exempt Volunteer Fire Departments From Procurement Policies - And Response (2)

The Hamilton County Commission just grouped a bunch of departments together in an attempt to reign in the CVB. I haven't spoken to any commissioners, but I truly believe it was unknowingly. By mandating that all non profits that receive 25 percent of their revenue follow county procurement policies, they might as well have padlocked all local volunteer fire departments. We expect ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: The Deadly ‘Holy Trinity’

If you have grown tired and calloused to America’s horrifying opioid epidemic, please consider what the epidemic has become. A report last week found that, in the United States, emergency room cases including opioid abuse jumped a staggering 99 percent between 2009 and 2014. It is believed that last year over 60,000 Americans died from drug overdoses and – far worse – more than ... (click for more)

Chattanooga Continues Hot Second-Half Start With Two 6-0 Wins Over Pensacola Sunday

Game One Sunday Andy Wilkins had three hits and two RBI, and Dereck Rodriguez allowed just two hits over six innings as the Chattanooga Lookouts beat the Pensacola Blue Wahoos 6-0 in the first game of a doubleheader on Sunday. Rodriguez (1-0) struck out six and walked two to pick up the win. Up 1-0 in the fourth, Chattanooga added to its lead when LaMonte Wade hit a two-run ... (click for more)

Cleveland High School Selects Joey Knox As Head Wrestling Coach

Cleveland High School has selected Joey Knox as the next head coach for the Blue Raider Wrestling program.  Coach Knox has been with the wrestling program as an assistant since 2013.  During his assistant coaching tenure, the team has secured six Team State Championships, including five individual State Champions and 20 State Medalists.    Cleveland High ... (click for more)