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Mayor Slay Tempts Police Board with Funds Tied to Possible Cuts to Firefighters’ Pensions

Kevin Killeen
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ST. LOUIS–(KMOX)–Taking his fight for pension reform to a new venue, Mayor Slay pushed a resolution through the police board calling for the saving of 30 officers’ positions slated for cutting — if and only if — the board of aldermen passes Slay’s plan for deep cuts to the firefighters’ pension system.

The police board is facing the prospect of eliminating 80 officers’ positions this coming fiscal year, and another 20 the next year, as rising pension costs gobble up more of the city’s available revenue.

“It’s time to do the right thing for the people of St. Louis,” Slay said, “It’s time for us to fix the pensions, so we can support the police department, so we can support the fire department, and so we can also continue to provide services to the people of St. Louis that they expect and they deserve.”

Slay’s proposal now before the board of aldermen would achieve $8.1 million in savings through lower contributions to the firefighters’ pension system, the mayor said.

The mayor told the police board he is “confident” it will pass, and if so, says another $1.2 million will be added to the police budget to maintain 30 officers’ positions and fund already-approved raises for Sgts. and above.

Board member Bettye Battle-Turner voiced skepticism about passing a resolution dependent on the board of aldermen’s future action.

“I just don’t like false hope,” Battle-Turner said, “I’d rather wait until they make their decision and then we vote on it.”

After the measure was approved, Mayor Slay was asked by reporters if the money needed to save the 30 officers’ positions might get tied up in a lawsuit that could be filed by the firefighters’ union.

“We certainly hope not,” Slay said, “Now, you’re getting into a lot of legal stuff that I don’t think we need to be talking about.”

Police Chief Dan Isom was asked afterwards how his department views the police board vote, and whether it changes the prospect of cutting 80 officers’ positions through attrition.

“Right now, we’re working under the assumption that we still have that we still have the 80 officers who are going to be missing in next year’s budget, so we’re planning for that,” Isom said.

Alderman Antonio French tweeted after that vote that Slay’s measure before the police board was “a stunt.”

French is among an unknown number of aldermen considering a less drastic package of pension cuts for firefighters, a bill sponsored by Alderman Joe Vaccaro.

Vaccaro’s bill has been stuck in a committee chaired by the man sponsoring Mayor Slay’s plan for firefighter pension cuts — Alderman Craig Schmid.

Vaccaro told KMOX last week he was circulating a letter to his colleagues seeking the 15 votes needed to bypass Schmid and get his bill out onto the floor of the full board for debate.

The aldermen have until June 30 to pass some form of pension cuts for firefighters in order to make changes to the budget before the new fiscal year starts July 1.

Copyright KMOX

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