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.



Copies Of Remaining Chattanooga Photo Books Available At Zarzour's Restaurant; By Mail

Remaining copies of the Chattanooga Photo books are available at Zarzours Restaurant on Rossville Avenue off Main Street. It is near Fire Hall #1. They include the Remarkable Stokes Collection, Railroads In and Around Chattanooga, and Paul Hiener's Historic Chattanooga.  All were published by Chattanoogan.com.  and printed by College Press at Collegedale. The ... (click for more)

Parks Charged In Burglary Of Business On Broad Street

Chattanooga Police have charged Nicholas C. Parks, 25, in connection with a business burglary on Broad Street late Wednesday night.   At approximately  11:30 p.m.,  the Chattanooga Police Department responded to a business burglary at La Carniceria, 1500 Broad St.   Upon arrival neighborhood patrol officers located the business door open and searched ... (click for more)

Technology: The Virtual Drug

The truth is you're probably reading this on a mobile device or your computer. As a matter of fact, I’m typing this down on a MacBook Pro. The point is technology is everywhere. It engulfs like a tsunami engulfs a village, only a few ever escape. In fact, it took me two hours to start this paper because I was so hypnotized by phone, checking my Instagram and seeing what the next ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: The Lesbian’s Daddy

I’ve always held the belief that things work out for the best. Oh, I’ve been in some tights where I couldn’t see the forest for the trees but, in the up-and-down life I have lived, I’ve found that God doesn’t make mistakes. If I’ll just hold on long enough, no matter how bad the circumstances, something good will happen. It always does. One of the best examples I have seen lately ... (click for more)

Undefeated Soddy Daisy Wrestlers Roll Past Improved Ooltewah

Wrestling is one of those sports where peaking is a process.  All coaches hope their guys reach their full potential in February when the post-season tournaments take place. So it’s hard to really put a finger on who’s who and what’s what in mid December, but the Soddy Daisy Trojans are headed in the right direction and the Ooltewah Owls are making wonderful progress as ... (click for more)

Prep Wrestling; Bradley Central, CCS, McCallie Have Tournaments This Weekend

Area wrestling fans have plenty of excellent wrestling to choose from this weekend as Bradley Central and McCallie tournaments are today and Saturday while the Charger Invitational at Chattanooga Christian is all day Saturday. Bradley Central  (27th Annual) Friday Start Time: 5 p.m. Saturday Semifinals: 10 a.m. Finals: 3 p.m. 2x Defending ... (click for more)