Plan to return control of St. Louis FF pensions to FF-dominated board gets initial OK

Local 73 is pushing for a system that is expected to be more responsive to firefighter concerns


By Austin Huguelet
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

ST. LOUIS — The Board of Aldermen on Thursday gave initial approval to a plan that would give control of firefighter pensions back to a board dominated by firefighters, reversing part of a 2012 overhaul meant to rein in costs.

Sponsoring Alderman Tom Oldenburg, of St. Louis Hills, says moving a new pension system set up by reforms and currently overseen by a city-dominated board under the old firefighter-led board will save money and make the system more responsive to firefighter concerns.

A final vote on a plan that would give control of firefighter pensions back to a board dominated by firefighters could be held next week. The union favors it.
A final vote on a plan that would give control of firefighter pensions back to a board dominated by firefighters could be held next week. The union favors it. (Photo/IAFF Local 73)

But city Budget Director Paul Payne has said claims of cost savings are inaccurate and argued the move would begin to unwind fixes to problems that once threatened to overwhelm the city budget. Former Mayor Lyda Krewson vetoed a similar plan last year.

On Thursday, a spokesman for Mayor Tishaura O. Jones indicated she continues to oppose the idea as well.

"The proposed change would cause pension costs to soar as they did in the past when they consumed a full third of the Fire Department's budget," said spokesman Nick Desideri.

But the politically influential Local 73 of the International Association of Fire Fighters is pushing hard for the move. And the board advanced the bill on Thursday on a voice vote, so it was not entirely clear whether it had the two-thirds majority necessary to override a mayoral veto.

Alderman Shane Cohn, of Dutchtown, moved to send the bill back to committee for further debate, but the board rejected the motion 24-3.

Aldermen Annie Rice, of Shaw, Anne Schweitzer, of far south city, and Cohn voted in favor of the motion. Northside Alderman Sharon Tyus did not vote on the motion.

A final vote on the bill could be held next week.

The changes would also require approval from the state legislature.

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