Fire And Police Pension Fund Board Votes Unanimously To Proceed With Pension Reform

Thursday, February 20, 2014 - by Hollie Webb

The Fire and Police Pension Fund Board voted unanimously to move forward with pension reforms that will save over $200 million over the next 25 years. Change became necessary after the stock market crash in 2008 caused the pension fund to lose a third of its assets.

After much research, the board determined that if everything stayed the same, the pension fund would not be available down the road. Mayor Andy Berke put together a Pension Task Force to work with the board to come up with a solution.



Before the vote, the board allowed some of the people who would be affected by the changes to have the floor to speak. The reform plan was greeted with mixed reactions.

One man said, "At the beginning of this process, I felt like there were not any real issues with the pension. Six months ago, I was angry and I felt there was a conspiracy by the city not to fund our pension. Over the last six months, I've actually learned quite a bit about the pension."

He continued, "My opinion changed after looking at the hard evidence. We have an issue with our pension." He said he felt the changes recommended by the Task Force were reasonable changes.

Another man who had attended the task force meetings said, "I've learned during the process that we indeed have a problem that required immediate action before the issue became too big to address."

He said, "If this proposal will put our fund on solid ground and make our fund healthy, I'm for it."

Retired Officer John Frasier disagreed. He told the board he believed some of the changes were not legal. However, Attorney Bill Robinson said pension reform had taken place in many other states and had not been ruled against in any court.

The Board also gave a presentation detailing the changes. With the reforms, contributions from active employees toward the pension fund will gradually increase. The cost of living adjustment, or COLA, will drop from 3 percent to 1.5 percent. However, retirees will not see reductions in their current benefits; increases will just come slower.

There were also changes pertaining to retirement age. Currently, personnel can retire after 25 years of service. For those currently not vested, it will go to age 50 if there are 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. There will be no change for vested personnel.

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

Board President Chris Willmore said, "Change is always hard and difficult." However, he said since 2008, 48 other states have changed their pension plans. He said this was not a "quick snap decision," saying they had been working on a solution since 2009.

He said, "I don't think we were intimidated. We were trying to fix a very difficult, complex problem."

Board member Mark Hoffman said, "This process has not been an easy process."

He said, "You may not like me today, but I think in 10 years from now when you're still getting your benefit check, I think you'll have a different outlook."



Latest Hamilton County Jail Booking Report

Here is the latest jail booking report from Hamilton County: AIRKS, JESSICA  711 WOODVALE AVE CHATTANOOGA, 37411  Age at Arrest: 28 years old Arresting Agency: Hamilton County Booked for Previous Charges or Other Reason(s) --- ANDERSON, SHEA AMBER  4103 DAYTON BLVD APTC37 CHATTANOOGA, 37415  Age at Arrest: 24 years old Arresting Agency: Chattanooga ... (click for more)

Chattanooga Man Arrested For Aggravated Robbery On 5th Ave.

Toriq Quinn Johnson, Jr. was arrested for aggravated robbery on Thursday.. Police were notified of a robbery that occurred on 4010 5 th Ave. on Wednesday. They spoke with Christopher Worley, who said that earlier that day he was in front of his residence when Johnson drove up and asked him if he wanted to buy some pills. He said he told Johnson no and Johnson drove off. ... (click for more)

Jill Levine Is An Educational Rock Star

No one has covered the Hamilton County Department of Education drama better than Roy Exum.  Thank you, Roy, but I take issue with your unnamed sources.  Professional jealousy and sour grape darts should not be anonymous.   HCDE is so dysfunctional, and there is good cause to place this public organization under a microscope, dissect it into pieces and discard all ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Settle It With A Vote

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary, which I consider a pretty good authority on what words really mean, defines “freedom” in this way:  “The quality or state of being free: such as, (a) the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action; (b) liberation from slavery or restraint or from the power of another; (c) independence -- the quality or state of being exempt ... (click for more)

Shoulders, Hester Lead CSAS Past Lookout Valley, 10-7

Most of the regular-season district softball games are in the book and teams are trying to sharpen their skills as they prepare for the post-season in hopes of landing in Murfreesboro for the season-ending TSSAA state tournament the week before Memorial Day. Such is the case for the Red Bank Lionettes, who are hosting the 2016 Red Bank Invitational this weekend at the Red Bank ... (click for more)

McMasters Makes Tough Call To Play Volleyball At Lee

Grace Baptist Academy two-sport standout Claire McMasters envisioned playing basketball and volleyball at a small college after her career ended with the Lady Golden Eagles. So, she “looked at” Covenant College and Maryville College as two schools where she thought that would be possible to extend her two-sport status. McMasters’ recruiting shifted quickly once Lee University ... (click for more)