(KMOV)-- The city of St. Louis announced a new plan Wednesday to avoid cutting firefighters and stop the growing cost of their retirement plans for taxpayers.
In 2001 and 2002, the state-created Fireman’s Retirement System (FRS) lost $147 million on investments. In 2008 and 2009, it lost $170 million.
Under state law, St. Louis taxpayers must pay for the losses.
The cost to taxpayers doubled between 2001 and 2009 and will double again between 2009 and 2011.
If nothing changes, the costs will continue to rise.
The fire department has gone largely untouched so far, but other areas of the city are suffering.
The city has cut 600 civilian jobs, ignored issues with infrastructure, parks and trash pickup have been neglected, and the mayor lost 7% of his budget.
The fire department’s budget increased by 40% in the last decade. Firefighter pay, health care, and pension costs rose 73%.
The new plan would implement several changes to the department including:
· Increasing the minimum number of years before a firefighter can retire from 20 to 25.
· For each year a firefighter works after 25 years, the value of their pension increases. The new plan reduces the annual increase, therefore requiring firefighters to work more years for the same pension.
· A firefighter cannot collect pension until 55.
· Firefighters no longer able to do the physical work of a firefighter would do other work is possible before accepting unemployment benefits.
· Requiring firefighter pension contributions to remain in the system when they retire. Firefighters pay into their retirement system now, but unlike most Americans they get full contributions back when they leave the department.
· The basis of pension calculations would change from the last two years of salary to the last three.
It will take action by the Missouri General Assembly to make all needed changes. Legislators say they will not consider the changes if the fire department opposes them.
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