Battle Over How To Fund City Firefighters’ Pension Continues

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ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI)-- A dispute is brewing again over funding for the St. Louis City Fire Department pension.  The Firefighters Union is airing a commercial charging Mayor Francis Slay wants the power to "raid" the pension fund.

Slay's chief of staff calls the commercial a "scare tactic."  Union president Chris Molitor denies that.  He said Wednesday the ad merely points out what the mayor is trying to do by working to modify the pension system.  

Members of the Board of Aldermen's Ways and Means Committee voted to cut $4.2 million from pension funding for the upcoming budget year Wednesday.  The funds would be made up according to Committee Chair Alderwoman Lyda Krewson if one of two Board Bills is passed next month.  

Mayor Slay's Chief of Staff Jeff Rainford said the changes would not impact current retirees, "It makes very minor changes for active firefighters, but does make major changes to prevent disability abuse and fraud and then makes major changes for new hires."

He called it "a common sense plan it's not nearly as tough as what is being done and will have to be done in other places."

The TV commercial concludes with a statement from the widow of a firefighter killed in the line of duty.  She says on camera, "I could not imagine our life without our pensions. What the Mayor is trying to do is horrible."

Firefighters object to a city demand that they leave their pension contributions in the pension fund when they retire.  Firefighters have been able to cash in those contributions and remove them from the pension fund.  Rainford said pension fund   earnings have not met  expectations of pension trustees during the market downtown.  Additional benefits approved in past years are not being funded and that has forced the city taxpayers to add more tax dollars to keep the pension fund afloat.

Both sides offer changes to a pension program for newly hired firefighters, but the two sides have not reached an agreement.

The full Board of Aldermen will vote on the budget next month after it is reviewed by the Mayor, Comptroller and President of the Board of Aldermen who sit on the Board of Estimate and Apportionment.

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