UPDATE: Fire and Police Pension Board passes pension changes - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

UPDATE: Fire and Police Pension Board passes pension changes

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -

UPDATE: The Fire and Police Pension Board passed 9-0 Thursday morning the task force's proposed changes to employees' pension plans.

The goal is to save the city $5.1 million a year for the next 26 years by cutting back on its contributions to the pension.

"I feel this is a reasonable, fair solution to a difficult, complex problem," said Board President Chris Willmore. "It was a lot of pressure. Obviously this was a hard decision, a difficult decision."

Board President Chris Willmore said his decision may be unpopular among his peers in the crowd but he finds it fair. Some opponents to the outcome left the meeting early and disappointed.

"It affects me because I get a 3 percent cost of living raise that I was getting for 14 years that was in the plan when I retired and now they decide that they're not going to honor that anymore," said Johnny Frazier.

Retired Police Officer Johnny Frazier said he doesn't support the approved plan which would increase employee contributions to the fund while cutting cost of living adjustments (COLA) for retirees.

Willmore said their plane is in line with other cities facing similar pension problems.

"This wasn't a quick snap decision that everyone thinks it was," Willmore said. "This was a long, difficult decision that we thought long and prayed over, and took a lot of factors into consideration."

The vote now goes before Chattanooga's City Council next week for final approval. The new pension plan would take effect July 1, 2014.


Tensions ran high Wednesday at a meeting between local police and firemen and the Chattanooga Fire and Police Pension Board. For these men and women in uniform, it was one of their last chances to voice their concern about proposed changes to their pension.

The board will vote first thing Thursday to either approve or disapprove changes put forth by Mayor Andy Berke's task force. It would then go to City Council next week for approval.

But after negotiations with the city, some police and fire, current and former, said they're still not happy with the current proposed deal.

Mayor Berke wants to cut costs but some employees don't like the plan.

SEE RELATED | Chattanooga Police and Fire Pension Protest at City Council

"They've got other things on their agenda other than fire and police that they want to pay for," said Retired Police Sergeant Kirk Salter.

Retired Chattanooga Police Sergeant Kirk Salter is not happy with the recommendations from Mayor Andy Berke's 18-member pension task force.

For police and firefighters, the plan would increase employee contributions to the fund while cutting cost of living adjustments (COLA). For the city, the changes would save some $200 million over the next 26 years.

READ MORE | Mayor Accepts Pension Fund Recommendations

"We never said that the status quo was acceptable, that change was needed, that benefit modifications would have to be made to ensure the plan is in a better funding status going forward," said Vince Butler. 

Vince Butler works public affairs with the pension fund. He said change is never easy but that its been years in the making and that he believes the plan is fair.

"It's what we would call a 'shared solution,' it's a shared solution that's still providing a dignified benefit to the fire and police and their families and the retirees that are in the plan today," Butler said.

Salter predicts if the plan is approved, recruiting and morale could suffer.

"With sorry pay and reduced pension, there's a lot more fixing to leave," he said.

SEE RELATED | Fire and Police Pension Debate Renewed Amid Retirements

If the pension board approves the changes Thursday morning, the City Council still has the final vote next week.

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