Fire and Police Pension debate renewed amid retirements
A local fire captain told Channel 3 there could soon be more retirements within the Chattanooga police and fire departments. This, just days after the police chief and others announced their retirements. He said other folks are ready to retire if the city can't come to terms with the "Fire and Police Pension Fund Board" by the end of January. The city's trying to save money but some police and firemen said it's at their expense.
"People are nervous, people are anxious," Brooks said. "I'd say morale is going down and they're not trusting the city officials with our financial future."
Captain David Brooks describes what he sees as the state of police and fire. He's an 18-year veteran with the fire department and a member of the mayor's task force, working to change the current pension fund.
"I know active employees right now with their retirement letter in their back pocket," Brooks said. "Some people are saying that if this goes into implementation, I've got my letter to leave today."
Brooks said he thinks the city's latest pension proposal would prompt more retirements.
"There's an increase in age, minimum age to retire; the minimum contributions is going from 9% to 13%; there's a reduction in the COLA; and also the DROP is being eliminated for new hires and those that are invested; and those currently in the DROP will only receive what they've invested so far, not the three years they were promised."
This year, 42 officers and firefighters have announced they're leaving, including Police Chief Bobby Dodd. But Mayor Berke told Channel 3 this week Chief Dodd didn't retire because of the flux in the fund.
"Before I ever appointed a task force on pension, Chief Dodd and I discussed the fact that many people on the command staff were on retirement age," said Mayor Andy Berke.
"They want to get out of the rain before the storm comes," Brooks said. "You look at the light at the end of the tunnel and you look there and it's a damn train."
Brooks said if they can't reach, what he considers to be, a fair comprise with the city, morale will suffer and more folks could leave.
Mayor Berke extended the deadline to reach an agreement by the end of January.
Chris Willmore, President of Pension Board said he thinks the city's proposal "will likely lead to a mass exodus from people of all ages and ranks." He is hopeful they'll find middle ground with the city. He's a 17 year veteran with the fire department and said the city's current proposal would "make me reconsider if I want to work for the city of Chattanooga."