City Finance Committee eyes pension cuts

By Stefano DiPietrantonio – bio |email|Facebook

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - The State Of Ohio is not the only one looking to cut pensions for public workers.

Proposed controversial moves could mean major cuts to the city's pension and healthcare funds.

It seems if you're a city worker with 27 years in, it looks like you're in good shape to keep your pension and benefits as is.

But what about those with 10, 20 , 25 years of service? Times have changed and so has the financial picture and that could leave thousands of people retiring with less.

"Our pension is going to be insolvent in 21 years and health in 15," said Finance Committee member Amy Murray. "I mean, this is serious, we can't put it off, we must do something."

And that something means big changes to the way the City's been doing business for years.

The Finance Committee and hundreds of city workers sat through hours of a lengthy presentation by the Pension Board.

Retired city worker, 63-year-old William Hunter, was also watching with great interest.

"They're killing us," Hunter said. "They're killing us slowly."

He said he signed his name to a contract years ago to serve and he honored it. He wants the city to do the same.

"When I came here I thought the city was the best place to work," Hunter said.

City workers were nearly guaranteed to retire in 30 years with all sorts of caveats.

"I came to the city as an automotive mechanic and I took a cut in pay," said one man who addressed the Finance Committee. "I took a cut in pay because I knew I had a future in 30 years."

"Why can't somebody else put their name on something and we agree on it," Hunter said. "And then later on, you decide hey, I don't want to honor the contract anymore."

Hunter said the numbers he heard from the Pension Board were disturbing.

"What employees would have to give back," he said. "What they're not going to receive."

The presentation covered areas that could be adjusted or cut, to make-up for a billion dollar shortfall.

Everyone agrees changes need to be made to protect the solvency of the plans.

"I am concerned the existing proposal includes only nominal changes to retirees benefit package but drastically cuts the benefits of future retirees," said one woman. "It is a very one-sided approach."

"If you've put in 15 years of service, 17, 20, 23 years of service, and you did that expecting you would have this opportunity to hit that 30 years and then change your career or retire," said Finance Committee member Chris Bortz. "I think it's a question of fairness and one we have an obligation to look at."

"This notion that people can retire at 50-55, maybe that has been the reality up to this point," said Finance Committee member Jeff Berding. "I just don't think that's the reality any more and I think that change before us reflects that and I'm sorry that's difficult to hear but there's just not enough money, we just saw it, there's not enough money."

All of the motions passed by the Finance Committee Tuesday go to Council for a vote this Thursday.

If passed, that will put in motion the drafting of ordinances, which takes about two to six weeks.

Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls said this will, by no means, be a final conclusion on Thursday, rather, a first step in moving forward, in what is likely to be an unpopular and difficult process.

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