The Firemen’s Retirement System sued the city on Wednesday asking a judge to block fixes made to Mayor Francis Slay’s firefighter pension reform plan passed last month by the Board of Alderman.
The bill restored some retirement benefits that had been cut for vested firefighters, but created a new, parallel system for new and younger firefighters, giving them reduced benefits. In September, Judge Robert Dierker put an earlier plan on hold when he said that cutting benefits for vested firefighters with more than 20 years on the force was illegal. Dierker also said that the city’s means for paying for the new system — by combining it with the old — wasn’t allowed by law. The judge stressed, however, that the city could indeed terminate the existing Firemen’s Retirement System of St. Louis and start a new one.
City officials say the bill passed in December attempting to correct the issues and address Dierker’s concerns.
Still, the new lawsuit isn’t a surprise. The firefighters vowed to sue after the Board of Aldermanpassed the amended reform bill on Dec. 14 by a vote of 17-8. The suit feeds into earlier litigation on the matter.
The suit re-alleges many arguments previously made to Dierker, and states the new bill is unconstitutional and violates the contractual rights of fire fighters with less than 20 years of experience.
Jeff Rainford, Slay’s chief of staff, said the “new litigation doesn’t change anything. We stand in the same place.”
City budget officials said that the revised retirement plan means about $500,000 more in annual costs to the city. It also eliminates part of an accounting change that would have provided an additional $2.8 million in immediate savings. Final savings should come in at around $50 million over 30 years.