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."



Motorcyclist Breaks Leg After Truck Pulls In Front Of Him

A motorcyclist suffered a broken leg in an accident on Friday. It happened on Highway 27 in Sale Creek. The Hamilton County Sheriff's Office said a truck pulled in front of the motorcycle that was going north. The injured biker was taken to a local hospital. (click for more)

Fort Oglethorpe Arrest Report For July 18-24

Here is the Fort Oglethorpe arrest report for July 18-24: Aaron Marshall Spindlow, 21, of 355 Walnut Grove Road, Apt. 11, Dayton, TN was arrested July 17 on a probation violation. Casey Reid Murphy, 31, unknown address was arrested July 17 on  a charge of absconded sex offender. Jacob Tyler Roddy, 24, of 201 Eads Street, Apt. 336, Chattanooga was arrested July ... (click for more)

Cell Phones And Roundabouts

I read the article written by Chris Morgan about the use of cell phones in vehicles and the Chattanooga Roundabouts. Cell phone use in vehicles especially in crisis intersection situations is extremely dangerous. I also agree with his assessment about the roundabouts. One problem I see with roundabouts is that on the two-lane roundabouts where they are coming in from ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: The NCAA’s “Division IV”

Jonathan Jensen and Brian Turner are two very smart guys. Not long ago the two sports researchers at Ohio State authored a story that appeared in the Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports that focused on the most successful college football teams in the country and, earlier this week, a writer named Ben Cohen broke it down in understandable terms for a fascinating Wall Street ... (click for more)

Stone Leaves South Pitt For Coaching Positions At Boyd-Buchanan

The possibility of a career move was definitely in Wes Stone’s future. The one he took wasn’t necessarily on his radar screen just a few weeks ago. Stone, assistant football and head baseball coach at South Pittsburg, has left the Pirates for teaching/coaching positions at Boyd-Buchanan. The 38-year-old Stone, who already is working with the Bucs’ football team as a defensive ... (click for more)

Montgomery Stops Lookouts Thursday, 6-4

The Chattanooga Lookouts jumped out to an early lead, but committed four errors on their way to a 6-4 loss at the hands of the Montgomery Biscuits. Recap Lookouts' center fielder Darnell Sweeney started the game on a positive note for Chattanooga, leading off the bottom of the first with a single. Noel Cuevas followed up Sweeney's single with a line drive base hit of ... (click for more)