City Council tries to save retirement fund

By Brad Underwood bio | email

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX 19) – Council members held a meeting Thursday discussing options to fill the growing one billion dollar deficit for city workers in Cincinnati.

A special task force designed to solve the deficit told city leaders that if the current rate of benefit payments continue, the retirement fund will be out of money in 18 years.

More than hundred current and retired city workers showed up for the meeting inside the Duke Energy center, many with crossed arms, and confused looks when they heard about the uncertainty of their financial future.

"I think people are scared," said Marianne Steger, a member of the pension task force and a representative of the American Federal of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSME). "We're talking about city employees, many of whom have difficult physical jobs who can't work into their 60's and 70's and they're worrying about living in a lifetime of poverty."

Some of points emphasized today in the four scenarios to fix the problem, increasing the age of retirement from 62 to 65 and reducing current benefits for employees.

"We don't agree or support this," said Diane Frey, a representative for the Cincinnati Organized and Dedicated Employees (CODE), which as over 800 city employees. "We don't think it's fair, we don't think it's appropriate, nor do I think its moral or ethical."

Multiple reasons were presented in attempts to explain the billion dollar gap like the economy, bad stock investments, retirees living longer, and incorrect predictions about rate returns. However, the city has failed to put in its portion to the retirement fund.

Steger says that's a sticking point.

"It really is some very difficult news for our members," said Steger. "We think any solution that the city comes up has got to include the city repaying what it did not put into the pension system."

Councilwoman Roxanne Qualls says she hopes council can make a decision on this by the end of the year if not sooner.

"Our priority is to make sure the pension system is in place, so that folks who have been planning for retirement can continue to do so," said Qualls.

In addition to declaring the retirement fund to be broke in 18 years, the task force told leaders and city employees that every year the current system is in place, it loses 20-30 million dollars each year.

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