A plan that stabilizes the pension fund for Lexington’s police officers and firefighters has been negotiated. City and union leaders have signed off on the reforms. The downtown meeting room was jammed with labor leaders, retirees, council members, and city administrators for the announcement. Lexington Mayor Jim Gray told them the significance of the agreement can’t be overstated. “It’s not extreme or extravagant to say that this historic agreement that we are announcing today will save the Lexington police and fire pension system and reclaim our city’s financial strength,” said Gray.
The plan, which still needs the approval of rank-and-file members, as well as the state legislature, cuts the city’s long term pension costs by 45 percent. The reforms mean smaller cost-of-living raises and costlier employee contributions. Chris Bartley represents firefighters.
“We tried to take the best and look out for the taxpayers as well as us and make sure this pension survives, and I think that’s what we’ve done,” said Bartley.
With most parties signing off on the agreement, Bartley says state approval is likely. Police Chief Ronnie Bastin adds a stable retirement program should also help attract new officers.
Long time economist Merl Hackbart served on the city task force that recommended the reforms. Hackbart believes this plan works to address long term concerns.
“In effect we are actually working to solve the problem rather than just doing a partial effort,” added Hackbart.
The city must also come up with more money, so it can pay down the principal owed on the pensions. Lexington Mayor Jim Gray hopes to get those funds with an increase in city revenues. If additional tax monies don’t arrive, Council member Kevin Stinnett says some spending cuts may be needed.
“Well if revenues don’t grow by eight million, it absolutely would, so let’s hope our revenue growth projections can cover the additional nine million a year,” said Stinnett.
Besides an increase in employee contributions, the proposal also sets a minimum retirement age of 41, and a reduction in the disability pension to 50 percent of pay. For new hires full, benefits would require 25 years of service. That’s up from 20 years.