Police vs. firefighters? Kirkwood residents to vote on city empl - KMOV.com

Police vs. firefighters? Kirkwood residents to vote on city employees' retirement plans

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A "vote no on Prop R" sign hangs outside of the Kirkwood Fire Department's building. (Credit: KMOV) A "vote no on Prop R" sign hangs outside of the Kirkwood Fire Department's building. (Credit: KMOV)
KIRKWOOD (KMOV.com) -

In Kirkwood, voters are asked to choose between police and fire. Or at least that’s what the signs will make them believe. In reality, voters will decided Tuesday to alter the city’s charter to change the retirement plan that would affect police, fire and city employees.

Proposition R reads, “Shall Section 5.3 of the Kirkwood Charter be repealed to allow employees of the police and fire departments to participate in the Missouri Local Government Employees Retirement System (LAGERS), with the continuation of the property tax already in place for the sole purpose of funding police and fire pension benefits?”

Basically what it means, is the city will have to change their charter to change from a city-operated 401K style retirement plan to a state-run pension plan.

Kirkwood’s assistance chief administration officer, Georgia Ragland said a independent study found 77 percent of city employees support the switch.

The majority of firefighters however do not.

Dan Berni, a Kirkwood firefighter, said they want to keep the current plan.

“Basically it’s a state run entity. We have no more control and not only that it’s a forever thing and if for some reason it doesn’t work out down the road, we’re stuck with it,” said Berni.

But Kirkwood Sgt. Sean Conners, who is the police union president says switching to the state run plan, called LAGER, offers more certainty.

“In our opinion it’s lack of security with the current plan, a 401k style plan, its stock market dependent. What that means is based on how the stock market goes we could lose a lot of money which affects us greatly because we don’t get social security,” said Conners.

Ragland said the switch will cost the city $390,000 more a year, but she said it will not involve a tax increase. The city will pay for the increase using a varity of sources including Prop P money and the fires sales tax revenue.

People in Kirkwood say things have gotten heated during the election season, pitting first responder against first responder.

Duane Orr, the union shop steward for the firefighters said wish things had been handled better.

“We are extremely disappointed how the city and police department handled this. LAGERS states that it is possible to leave us out, but the mayor and city council said no,” said Orr.

Conners also said the city had the option to change the city employee and police employee’s pension plans without the fire department changing theirs.

Ragland though said this was the best decision for the city as a whole and will help them attract new employees.

Webster Groves and Maplewood both adopted the LAGERS plan. St. Louis City said they looked into it but it did not make sense for police and fire departments in the city.

Both supporters and opponents of Prop R encourage all Kirkwood residents to read up on the issue ahead of Tuesday’s election. Here is information the police union put out in support of Prop R and here is the information by firefighters who do not support Prop R.

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