Knoxville voters get say on new pension plan for employees

12:20 AM, Oct 17, 2012   |    comments
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When Knoxville voters head to the polls, the decision about the presidency won't be the only question on the ballot.

Both the city and the county are proposing separate pension changes for the thousands of government and civil servants, and they could affect millions of tax dollars long term.

Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero said the current city pension plan for 1,600 eligible employees is costly, running $13 million this year.  She expects the number to grow as more Baby Boomers retire.

"We need to stop the current plan that is not sustainable for the long term and make sure it reduces costs while it continues to provide benefits," said Mayor Rogero.

Here's a breakdown of the current and proposed plans for firefighters and police, the largest groups of people who would be affected by a pension change:

If an officer or firefighter has made $50,000 a year until he or she retires, with 25 years of experience, they would receive more than $31,000 annually in retirement. That's based on a 2.5% rate per year of service, factoring in their highest pay.

In the new plan, employees would start drawing retirement with a 2% rate that would factor in $40,000 of salary at most.

Under the new plan, a retiree would collect $20,000 a year.

The current plan would still apply to anyone retired by the first day of next year, but new hires after that date would be enrolled in the new plan.

Some firefighters said while they understand the city's need to update their pension plans to save costs, it could cost them members.

"We kind of came together and we met and discussed. As the mayor stated, everyone is not happy. They had to give some, we had to give some," said Kevin Faddis, president of the local firefighter's association.

The city says it would take at least 30 years to see a major drop in pension costs since more people on the current plan will be retiring in the years to come. But the mayor says something must be done to change the trend.

The city provided 10News with a chart of how the proposed pension plan will work.

Another charter amendment on the ballot would close the current pension plan for uniformed officers in Knox County.

If approved, charter question one would shut down the plan for new hires as of january 1, 2014. Unlike the city's proposal, the county plan would not automatically introduce a new pension plan.

Instead the county's pension board would recommend a new plan that county commission would vote on.

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