Group aiming for pension amendment on November ballot

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - A group is aiming to make drastic changes to Cincinnati's troubled pension program.

Members of Cincinnati for Pension Reform collected thousands of signatures to put a measure on November's ballot calling for an amendment to the city's charter.

However, Cincinnati City Council members voted unanimously last week on a resolution asking voters to say "no."

"We think it's trickery what's happening with these petitions," said Councilwoman Pamula Thomas.

That's the message that many people had in response to the latest attempt to change Cincinnati's pension system.

Under the charter amendment, the city would contribute 9% of an employee's annual base compensation to future employees hired after January of 2014.

Employees could elect to stay in their current pension program and at retirement be eligible for a pension that is 60% of their average five highest years of base compensation.

"It doesn't solve any of our problems. In fact, it creates a hell of a lot more problems than we have now," said retiree Oliver Baker.

Baker is among the dozens who stood outside the steps of Cincinnati City Hall on Wednesday to share why this reform isn't the answer.

"The ballot initiative is being promoted by extreme out of state corporate interest, again with thank the City of Cincinnati for taking the stand against this ballot initiative," Doug Sizemore with the Cincinnati AFL-CIO Labor Council.

Councilwoman Thomas stressed her opposition to this reform saying city employees aren't eligible for social security, and this amendment may jeopardize the city's ability to remain exempt from the program.

"Their pension is their livelihood. We don't want to see these people go into poverty. They've worked all these years to be provided this pension," Thomas explained.

FOX19 reached out to several members of Cincinnati for Pension Reform but they couldn't be reached for comment.

In a statement, committee member Burr Robinson says, "The politicians simply haven't stepped up to deal with the city's pension crisis. Now it's time for the people to solve the problem."

On Monday, the Hamilton County Board of Elections said enough signatures had been collected, but the measure still needs to be reviewed by Cincinnati City Council and then certified by the board of elections before it heads to the November ballot.

In July, the city's bond rating was lowered because of their past trouble with the pension plan, but whether it's this latest reform or not, city council says they are working on changes to improve the current system.

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