Although most of you are more familiar with major changes to many pension and retirement systems in the private sector, you should also know that governments have similar challenges. Most cities, counties, and states in America face problems with their pension plans. Some systems, in fact, have foundered. If the rest put off addressing their problems much longer, some of them may also face deep cuts in services or even bankruptcy.
In St. Louis, we are more fortunate than many other governments. First, our three pension systems are stable, especially compared to other government pension plans. That means no retirees are in danger of losing their benefits. Second, we have been able to put more money into the systems without cutting back on municipal services because we have been operating City government more efficiently.
But, we must do more soon.
A task force that includes representatives of both the Comptroller and the President of the Board of Aldermen has been studying the City’s pension obligations. The subject has also been litigated by the pension plans. The clear consensus - and the court’s order - is that the rules require money to be added to some of the retirement systems, all of which are, fortunately, stable and able to meet their future obligations.
Just so you know where I am coming from:
Police officers and firefighters consider their pensions to be a sacred trust. It is more important to them than any other part of their compensation. First things first, we must make sure we set aside enough money to ensure they get the pensions they were promised, that they deserve, and that they are counting on.