Terry Riley asks for more time and information with regard to action on the MAST/KCFD pension funding.
Yes, this took place last week. However, if you think the issue of pensions for former MAST people--in fact, the issues of pensions in general--is going to go away, you are sadly mistaken. Remember: Information is Power.
It looks innocent enough on the docket: Ordinance 100607. A previous ordinance to do with pensions--100606--had been advanced without difficulty. 100607 reads: Amending Article IX, Division 2, entitled "Retirement System" of Chapter 2, Code of Ordinances, by repealing Sections 2-1171, 2-1172, 2-1176, 2-1186, 2-1189, and 2-1193, and enacting in lieu thereof, new sections of like number and subject matter; enacting a new Section 2-1201, "Same-City funding"; and reaffirmation of supplemental pension benefit and enhanced contributions therefor. The City Council meeting had been going along rather smoothly, with several items advanced, omitting the second reading. When it was proposed by a council member (I think John Sharp--I really need to learn to take clearer notes!) that this item be passed now, omitting a reading, the debate was on.
The gobbledygook refers to the city pensions and the actions would cause the city to finance $40 million over 10 years for former MAST employees to have their now Fire Department pensions funded. When MAST was MAST, it had 401 (k) plans and other retirement options of that nature--not a classic pension. Part of the deal with the merger was that MAST employees would be in the pension plan, with their pension status reflective of all their years of service at MAST, not starting at April 2010, the merge date. Now, this is complicated financial stuff. However, the entire Kansas City pension system for its employees has been described as "upside down" and MAST only brings about $4 million to fund the pensions.
As the debate raged, here were some of the debate points:
1. It was feared that there would be "a wholesale attack on" the retirement pension funds by retiring former MAST employees who could retire with full pension starting in late 2011, and there would be no money.
2. There were fears that the plan was illegal under the laws of the state of Missouri. Terry Riley in particular felt that more information was needed about this point.
3. Former MAST employees, including paramedics, emergency medical technicians, dispatchers, and vehicle technicians (these folks prepare, clean and stock the ambulances) serve the city well and deserve a pension.
4. Questions as to whether or not the KCFD can maintain the same revenue level as MAST (patient charges, medicare/medicaid, collections, membership, nonemergent transports, etc.) came up.
5. Some felt that MAST board spent $6 million ineffectively and in fact the phrase "golden parachute" was used in reference to people leaving the EMS service as the merger/take over process started and continued in 2009. Actually, I could use the term accused, as in "MAST board was accused of spending $6 million on golden parachutes."
6. Funkhouser several times felt that approving the financing of the $40 million over 10 years had to be done as soon as possible, terming it "a good deal for the city."
7. City Manager Troy Shulte felt that money would come over the 10 year term from reducing EMS administration costs, "Overtime issues" that would reduce costs, and the changes in Federal health care financing ("Obamacare" effects, if you will). Ed Ford thought the money would end up being pulled from general city revenue funds and the health levy.
So after all this complicated and frequently contentious debate, a vote was taken to push ahead and omit the second reading of this ordinance. If you were watching on Ch. 2, this vote got fouled up rather badly, but when all was clear as mud, the item fell short of the 9 required to pass. So we will hear from this issue again, not this week as the Council is not meeting, but sometime in the future. In fact, the entire pension issue, of funding these usually very nice pensions for many of these government jobs, is going to have to be dealt with.
Again, one of the critical points that those of us who stood opposed to the folding of MAST was this pension issue. It is only illuminated even more by the general state of pension funding in Kansas City--and in the nation.
Understatement of the year: "This takeover has had some challenges."--John Sharp