ST. LOUIS–(KMOX)–Mayor Slay’s plan to cut the cost of firefighter’s pensions to taxpayers is going nowhere fast in the Board of Aldermen.
Supporters were expecting the board president to assign the bill to a committee by today. But Board President Lewis Reed says he still has questions about the legality of the mayor’s sweeping plan.
“Number one, can the city just opt out and bring the pension system back?” Reed said, “The second issue is can you take (away) benefits that active employees have already been given?”
Reed says he plans to assign the bill to a committee “sometime next week.” But he wants to see a legal opinion Slay’s office reportedly has obtained that shows the proposed changes are legal.
Alderman Craig Schmid, who introduced the bill for the mayor, says he hasn’t seen any legal opinion, but he still believes the city has legal authority to drop out of the state pension plan.
“If we go to court and the court says, ‘no, city, you’re wrong, you have to stay under the state plan. You cannot opt out,‘ then the city would theoretically respond, this is an unfunded mandate,” Schmid said.
Meanwhile, the firefighter’s union says Slay’s plan would likely end up in court. Jeff Glorioso, Secretary/Treasurer with IAFF Local 73, says the Slay plan contains some provisions similar to other plans that have faced court challenges.
“Currently, a case came down in New Jersey where they made some changes for some active employees and the court ruled in favor of the union,” Glorioso said, “Similar cases have come out of Arizona as well.”
Reed says he expects the board to pass some form of legislation “this session” reforming the firefighter’s pension system, but he believes it will be different from the mayor’s plan.
“People have worked their entire lives in this system, and planned their retirements around this system,” Reed said, “And we should not at the 12th hour come up and rip the rug out from under them.”
Mayor Slay’s office has warned that the cost of the current system to taxpayers — $24 million a year and rising — is bloated and unsustainable. Some aldermen who in the past supported increases in benefits for the current system now say they are open to the mayor’s cuts to balance the budget.
Mayor Slay’s spokesperson was unavailable for comment.