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Group turns in signatures to put pension issue on ballot

The group trying to revamp the city of Cincinnati's pension system says it's submitted almost 16,000 signatures on petitions to put the charter amendment before voters. It needs more than 7,400 valid signatures to make November's ballot. The board of elections still needs to verify the signatures and certify the issue. 

"This is a common-sense approach," said Burr Robinson with the Cincinnati for Pension Reform ballot committee.  "We can't meet our pension obligations, and the problem only gets worse the longer we stick with this current structure."

But city council has come out against the plan, saying while the city needs to deal with its underfunded pension, the group's proposal is not the solution and puts retirees at risk.   Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls called it flawed and misguided.  She pointed out the city and the pension board are already making reforms to the system.  Council member Chris Seelbach said it's fair to say the city has a problem with its pension system and needs a solution five members of council can agree on, but he said the solution proposed by the ballot initiative is a "really, really bad one."

Here's what the group says its proposed charter amendment contains:

  • Future employees: rather than paying into an unsustainable pension program, employees hired after January of 2014 would participate in a retirement plan just like the ones most Ohioans participate in every day. The City will provide employees with a variety of private investment options for their retirement, and contribute up to 9% of employee's annual base compensation.
  • Current employees’ investment into their pension remains secure, and they may continue in the current pension program if they wish. At retirement, they will be eligible for a pension that is 60 percent of their average five highest years of base compensation.
  •  Current pension recipients will see no change in their existing pensions or benefits, with the exception of a cap on the rate of increase each year to 3% in any one year.
  • Sustainability and Solvency: moving forward, the City's retirement benefits plans must be annually audited, that audit must be disclosed to the public, and funds must be made available to pay projected future benefits.