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Still Have Questions About Police, Fire Pension Tax?

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. --Voters in Springfield Tuesday will decide whether to renew the police/fire pension tax, but the ballot language may be confusing to some. We are re-posting this story by Laurie Patton that might answer your questions. (originally published March 13, 2014)
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. --Voters in Springfield Tuesday will decide whether to renew the police/fire pension tax, but the ballot language may be confusing to some.  We are re-posting this story by Laurie Patton that might answer your questions.  (originally published March 13, 2014)

The chiefs of the Springfield fire and police departments are working feverishly to educate voters that keeping the police-fire pension in place means voting "no."  A "yes" vote means the pension would be repealed.

Both Springfield Police and Fire have launched a city wide campaigns speaking in front of community groups.

They say while this pension directly impacts about a thousand people the entire community will feel the affects if the pension tax is repealed.

"Voters are going to be asked whether they want to repeal the existing 3/4 cent sales tax," says Springfield Fire Chief David Hall while speaking in front of the North Springfield Betterment Association.

Convincing the members of the association to keep the police fire pension in place is not a hard sell for Hall.

Rick Fay, Vice President of the NSBA, says it's a promise the community made years ago.

"These are people who risk their lives everyday and they need to be taken care of," says Fay.

Explaining what they have to do to keep the tax for the police fire pension is a little more complicated.

"Which means if they want to continue the tax they need to vote "No", if they oppose the tax they want to vote "Yes," says Hall.

The Police-Fire Pension has always been complicated. So complicated that in 2006 all new hires were put in a new retirement program called L.A.G.E.R.S

There are 915 current and former employees of the police and fire department on the old pension.

500 of them are already retired. The remaining 400 are active employees who still pay into the plan.

In 2009 the pension was $200 million underfunded, funded at only 35 cents for every dollar.

Now, five years after the 3/4 cent tax, passed the pension is 75 percent funded, meaning 75 cents for every dollar.

"So we are getting there, the tax has been an integral part of that but there's still a ways to go. Still we have 25 percent of the liabilities are still unfunded," says Hall.

Hall says a repeal of the tax now would mean a cut to critical services to make up for another shortfall.

"About $9.7 million this next year we would have to pay into the plan from general fund so we'd have to cut the general fund expenses by that amount so we can make it into the pension," says Hall.

Hall says that would mean reduction in both police and fire staff through attrition, smaller investigation units for crimes and arson and increased response times.

Hall says repeal of the three quarters of a cent tax means the city would have to make up nearly $1 million per month for that $9 million.
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