Robbing The Working Class - And Response (2)

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Mayor Berke is robbing the working class of their earned pension.  Sadly, I just read that the actuary study concluded that the city of Chattanooga will save a lot more than estimated or needed at about $5.1 million at the expense of the working class.  If the savings is more, reduce the cuts to the pension.

To suggest that Mayor Berke is just helping preserve a workable defined benefit pension is pure hogwash.  The only desire of the Mayor’s office is to free bond issue leverage for the usual developer friends to use our mandated tax dollars as their working capital in Tax Incremental Financing (TIF) or corporate welfare incentives.

What is the rush to reduce the fire and police pension?  The rush is to position the city for more bond issues for a $7.5 million dollar parking garage, developers, and TIF for developers that live off of corporate welfare.  All funded on the backs of the working class that are fully vested in a pension promise.

Mayor Berke is not helping anyone, but a group of Chamber of Commerce elites at the expense of the working class.  Are we sure Andy is a Democrat?  Of course not - it is an attempt to appear center for the future race by design.

April Eidson

* * *

“What is the rush to reduce the fire and police pension?“

Is it for bond issue positioning for a city that is already AAA bond rated in a county that is already AAA bond rating?  Perhaps.

…Or perhaps it’s the fact that this pension has a market value of 51.8% and falling daily?

Because of all 31 private government pensions in the state of Tennessee, Chattanooga’s Fire and Police Pension is rated next to last in funding status, despite the fact that Chattanooga is actually only one of 10 of these cities to fund more than they are actually required to of their Annual Required Contribution (Daniel Connolly, “The Commercial Appeal”, 03-Feb-2014) despite a flow of misinformation to the contrary that would compete with the Tennessee River itself?

Or that while we are at a 51.8% market value, the State of Tennessee is proposing legislation that would force this same pension to cede control and cease all COLA benefits because of its funding status being below 60% (TN Senate Bill 2079, p. 3)?  (That’s a 0% COLA and loss of governance without a referendum OR negotiation, by the way.)

51.8% funding status: It’s a cold hard truth and one I’ve noticed you and every other detractor has conveniently avoided to date. It’s not a bond issue, and it wasn't caused by a lack of pension caps. This pension is facing complete failure and the only ways of fixing it (and therefore our future – yours included) are bloody and painful to all employees, past and present, and to say that instead of a math issue this is part of a mass conspiracy apparently involving the active and retired police officers and firefighters and a group of incredibly dedicated community volunteers that are actively trying to come up with a solution to fix it is the height of lunacy, and those of us living in the world of cold hard facts are just about at the end of our ropes on the subject.

…Or it’s a bond conspiracy, I could be wrong.

Either way, I don’t mind this being hijacked as a political vehicle for agenda’s on either side of the aisle, so long as it’s fixed…and fixed by its members, not the Tennessee Legislature as others were about to inadvertently insist.

Mine is a career of tough decisions.  To those that served on this Task Force? I appreciate you for doing the same and my family will continue to thank you long after I have passed, and this pension survives as a direct result.

51.8%:  No one has "rolled over".  They just did the math and made the tough choices and not liking the answer has nothing to do with it.

Craig W. Joel 

* * * 

The opinion entitled “Robbing the Working Class” regarding the Fire and Police Pension Fund reform omits several key points.  I had the privilege to serve alongside the police and fire members on the task force as a community volunteer the last six months and came away with an even greater appreciation for the jobs they do.  Hats off to the active and retired workers who agreed to serve on the task force in a very difficult role.  They were in a thankless position but they acknowledged the issue and made the tough calls to put the pension on a sustainable footing for officers 25 years down the road.    At only a 51.8 percent funded ratio when the task force began meeting, it was not on a sustainable footing before the latest proposed changes.     

Mayor Berke’s fortitude in addressing pension reform was not part of a larger black helicopter plan.  If the fund had stayed on its same trajectory it would not have been too far behind Detroit in terms of insolvency.  Dealing with the issue after it had been kicked down the road for several years before Mayor Berke’s time was the responsible thing to do.  Personalizing the issue against the mayor is misdirected.  He inherited the pension fund issue.  He did not create it.  The pensions funded ratio ranked 30th out of 31 among Tennessee non-TCR funds.  In 1999 the funded ratio was 109.9 percent.  It was over-funded and the city’s contribution as a percentage of payroll was 11 percent.  By 2013 the city was contributing 35.9 percent of payroll yet the funded ratio had declined to 51.8 percent despite the city having overfunded its required contribution during that time.  Even if the writer was correct that the city is reducing its contribution by $5.1 million, it is still paying in excess of 250 percent more now than it did in 1999. No one’s checks will be reduced.  Widows and those killed in the line of duty will see increases.  A COLA and the DROP remain in place contrary to many peer cities.    

Had the task force not reached a consensus, the issue would have gone to a referendum where voters could choose between a tax increase benefiting a select few versus unilaterally-imposed cuts to the pension benefits to restore the fund to healthy status.  Everyone knows how Hamilton County’s majority feels about tax increases.  Conventional wisdom was that the referendum cuts would have been worse than the choices arrived at through careful, collaborative discussions over many months.  

Rather than look for negatives in what was a difficult exercise, kudos once again to the police and fire representatives who made demanding choices under tight financial constraints, none of which any of the parties involved created.     

On a lighter note, as a lifelong observer of politics, I think it’s safe to say that the mayor’s Democrat credentials and bona fides remain unblemished and unquestionable.  

Kurt J. Faires

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