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Published: Tuesday, 6/29/2010

Council to weigh fall ballot spot for pension issue

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Toledo City Council on Tuesday will review Mayor Mike Bell's request for voters in November to decide whether the city should in the future pay pension premiums for municipal union employees.

The referendum, if council votes to place it on the ballot, and if voters approve it, would end any possibility of that compensation for city employees in their future contracts. The "pension pickups" have been a source of increasing controversy since the city's general fund budget started nose-diving in 2007.

"In negotiations for any new collective bargaining agreement or successor collective bargaining agreement occurring after January 1, 2011, the mayor shall bargain to end any provisions that would require the City to pay any employees' statutorily mandated share of pension contributions," the proposed charter amendment reads.

Council today will also hold a special meeting at 1:30 p.m. ahead of its agenda review meeting to vote on allowing the company that owns the former Fiberglas Tower downtown to apply for $10 million in a 20-year, Section 108 loan from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. The Eyde Co. of Lansing has a plan to renovate the building into a mix of apartments, a hotel, and a restaurant.

The proposed pension charter amendment will be reviewed during a 2 p.m. meeting.

Mr. Bell said that "structural change" would save the city millions every year, but he acknowledged that the city unions would argue for higher salaries or other compensation to replace the pension pickups that have for years been included in their contracts.

Dan Wagner, president of the Toledo Police Patrolman's Association, said the change would be quickly irrelevant for the city budget.

"I think it's a lost cause because every union has negotiated pension pickups away for new employees," Mr. Wagner said. "They are going to be phased out as they retire and if they take our pension pickups away, they are going to have to give it back to us in base pay, and that will cost even more."

The current TPPA contract expires Dec. 31, 2011. Under the three-year safety-forces contracts negotiated in 2009 by then-Mayor Carty Finkbeiner and approved by council, any newly hired employees have to pay the entire 10 percent of the employees' share of their pension plan payments.

The city has for many of its union employees paid the 10 percent of the employees' share of their pension plan payments. That is on top of the employer's required contribution of 19.5 percent.

Most city unions were forced for a time this year to pay their own pension pickups when council declared exigent circumstances and imposed concessions to help balance the city's general fund budget.

The unilateral cuts were imposed on the city's exempt employees as well as members of the Toledo Police Patrolman's Association, the Toledo Police Command Officers Association, Toledo Fire Chiefs Association, AFSCME Local 7, and AFSCME 2058.

Since then, all but two unions affected - the command officer's union and Teamsters Local 20 - have worked out better deals for their members.

Eight members of council would have to agree by Aug. 19 to place the measure on the Nov. 2 ballot.

Contact Ignazio Messina at:

imessina@theblade.com

or 419-724-6171.



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