ST. LOUIS–(KMOX)–A plan favored by Mayor Slay requiring deep cuts to the fire fighters’ pension system got swatted down in the three-member board of Estimate and Apportionment.
Sitting at the head of the table, Slay was engulfed in stony silence when he asked for a second to his motion to move the proposal toward a vote. Neither Aldermanic President Lewis Reed nor Comptroller Darlene Green said a word.
“Hearing none, the motion fails for lack of a second,” Slay said.
The plan that failed was some add-ons to the city budget — including money to avoid 26 firefighter layoffs — that would have pressured the board of aldermen to make cuts in contributions to the firefighters’ pension system to pay for it all.
After the meeting, Slay scurried to his adjoining office, closing the door behind him, and ignored a reporter calling out his name for Slay’s routine post-adjournment interview.
Standing their ground, both Green and Reed said afterwards that they feared the plan backed by Slay might embroil the city in a lawsuit with the firefighter’s union and achieve no real cost savings.
“Right now we have a board bill in place that’s already been approved by the state that will not land us in court,” Reed said.
Reed was referring to a lesser pension reform package that he says would achieve $1.3 million in cost savings.
But Reed’s “solution” came under strong criticism from a member of the board of aldermen, who favors the mayor’s plan. Alderwoman Jennifer Florida is co-chairman of the Ways and Means Committee — which handles budget matters for the board.
“And when you break it down, it suggests that we pay for them to go back to school full time,” Florida said, “and in that assumption, tuition only goes up four percent. But in reality it went up eight percent. We’re also paying the disabled person a hundred-percent of their salary. So, it has been suggested that there’s a huge, up-front cost to doing their disability proposal.”
The future of the firefighter pension showdown remains unclear. As it now stands, the bill to cut some $5 million in pension contributions is still before the board of aldermen. It could still be passed.
Reed is scrambling to line up 15 votes to pass his lesser version of pension cuts.
Something has to happen before the June 30th budget deadline.