LEXINGTON, KY -- A city task force wants to solve Lexington's public safety pension problems by starting a less-generous plan for new employees, reports the Lexington Herald-Leader in its Saturday edition.
The proposal, which faces strong opposition from police officers and firefighters, must clear the Urban County Council and the Kentucky General Assembly before taking effect.
Officials hope state lawmakers will approve the measure this year, but there are only 22 working days left in the legislative session.
Under the proposal, new police officers and firefighters in Lexington would get largely the same benefits as those offered under a state plan that serves public safety workers in other Kentucky cities.
Chris Bartley, president of the local International Association of Fire Fighters 526, said he doesn't like the idea of mirroring the state's county retirement system.
"It's a low standard pension and I don't think we need to go with that," said Bartley, who voted against the pension task force's recommendations. "It's pretty much a quick fix for them ... It's a money-saving move is all it is. They really don't care about the employees."
Over the years, Lexington's police and fire pension system has been underfunded to the point that it has a more than $246 million unfunded liability.
Last month, Mayor Jim Newberry and the pension board reached an agreement to fully fund the system by 2015 through a combination of cash contributions and bonds. But the funding problems will probably continue as long as the same benefits are offered.
City and public safety leaders agree that something needs to be done, but the question is, what?
The task force wants to mirror the county retirement system with one major exception: the city would calculate occupational disability pay using a more generous formula.
In particular, the formula would better compensate an officer or firefighter who is injured early on in their career, said Bill Lear, chairman of the task force.
"The state system doesn't compensate for that at a level that I thought was appropriate," he said.
If approved by lawmakers this year, the plan would go into effect for all police officers and firefighters hired after June 30, reports the Lexington Herald-Leader.
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