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."



Government Officials Respond To Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Speech To Congress

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed a joint session of the U.S. Congress on Tuesday.  Senator Lamar Alexander said, after attending,  “Israel is one of our greatest allies, and our relationship is especially critical during these dangerous times in the Middle East. It’s important for Congress and the American people to hear from such strong ... (click for more)

Dalton Police Department To Assist Norfolk Southern Police With Trespasser Abatement

The Dalton Police Department will be assisting the Norfolk Southern Police Department with a trespasser abatement initiative on Wednesday and Thursday.  The effort in Dalton is one of six such initiatives that the NSPD is planning in different areas of the country. The program is intended to raise awareness of the dangers of trespassing on railroad property and reduce instances ... (click for more)

Tennessee Deserves Better Health Reform - And Response

Tennessee needs health care reform. Expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, or "Obamacare," was not the best solution for Tennesseans. That is why the vast majority of Tennessee legislators never publicly supported the plan defeated in a special legislative session in February.   It is important to distinguish health care from health insurance. As one physician ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Our Insult To Israel

I am deeply saddened that over two dozen members of Congress – all Democrats – will be boycotting a speech by Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel, when he speaks in Washington tonight. I am also offended that the President of the United States will not receive Netanyahu prior to the speech – a customary gesture on such occasions – because he claims it is too close to ... (click for more)

Tre Tiller's 22 Leads Central To Region 3-AA Basketball Championship

There just must be something about playing basketball at Chattanooga State that makes the Central Purple Pounders click. Especially when the opponent is the Brainerd Panthers. Facing Brainerd for the fifth time this season and second at Chattanooga State on Monday night, the Purple Pounders defeated the Panthers for the third time. The latest conquest may have ... (click for more)

Flames Golfers Finish Seventh In Las Vegas

LAS VEGAS – The Lee University men’s golf team placed seventh in a field of 16 teams at the Las Vegas Desert Classic. After posting a round of 302 on Sunday the Flames finished with a 301 on Monday and will return to Cleveland with a 603 total in the 36-hole event staged at the Palute Golf Club-Snow Mountain. The University of the Redlands (Calif.), placed by ... (click for more)