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Council votes to oppose pension plan ballot initiative

Cincinnati Council is opposing a campaign to change the city's retirement system. The Cincinnati for Pension Reform Committee has been collecting signatures to put the issue on November's ballot. Council's finance committee today passed a resolution opposing the effort, saying it's not a solution to the city's unfunded pension liability.

"I think it's a fair statement to say we have a problem with our pension system," said council member Chris Seelbach.  "We need a solution that at least five members of this council can get behind.  But the solution proposed by the ballot initiative is a really, really bad one."

Cincinnati's unfunded pension liability grew by $133 million last year. Moody's Investors Service recently downgraded the city's bond rating, citing the city's retirement system as one of its reasons.

While several speakers at today's meeting expressed their opposition to the ballot initiative, city retiree Douglas Springs spoke in support of it.  He told the council committee he signed the group's petition because he's extremely worried.

"I'm very, very, very, very concerned that Cincinnati's retirement system will fail.  It's almost a billion dollars in the hole," he said.  "I'm concerned that our benefits will be cut."

Among the changes proposed by the ballot initiative is placing city employees hired after January next year in a defined contribution plan, similar to the 401k plans used in the private sector.

Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls said the city and the pension board have already started making changes to the system that will have a positive impact going forward. She called the group's reform plan flawed and misguided.