Community Free Press Response before 2009 Primary
Dear Mr. Donegan
1). Have you spent very much time looking into the Police/Firefighter pension issue?
Yes, but I canít say I am as knowledgeable as City Council candidates Tom Martz or Fred Ellison. I would like to sit down with specific police officers and firefighters and discuss the human aspect of the pension problem.
2). What are your thoughts on the pension?
I donít buy into this idea that the citizens of Springfield have to continue to make the pension the cityís top priority because of a promise made in 1946. I do understand, though, based on new state law that if the pension fund drops below 60%, the state will withhold up to 25% of the sales tax revenue. I want our governmental employees to see their pension as a benefit, not a right.
3). Do you believe the city has done all they could to research the need for a sales tax? The sales tax proposal is one solution to the pension problem. Further research would have shown the benefits of regulating businesses less, or reducing the cityís investment in the Parks Department.
Is there anything they could have done differently? City leaders like the idea of higher taxes to fix problems, provide for capital, or to maintain the status quo.
4). If elected, do you have any plans to take action regarding the pension issue, in any way? If so, what are your plans?
I think the pension sales tax will fail, and as mayor, I will move to cut costs in areas outside of the Police and Fire Departments. I will also suggest the repeal of the Parks Tax that was passed two or three years ago until our pension fund has sound footing.
5). The current City Council recently voted to pass a resolution, resolving that if the police/firefighter pension sales tax passes they will:
a. contribute 29.88 percent of police and fire employee payroll from the general fund into the pension system during the life of the tax.
b. increase police and fire "Tier 1" employees' contributions to begin in 2010, based on the determination of actuarial recommendations received by November 30, 2009.
c. to the extent the City of Springfield recovers any funds from its ongoing lawsuit with telecommunications providers for back taxes alleged to be owed by such companies, the City will, after payment of attorney's fees and expenses, contribute all net funds received into the pension system.
d. see that all new police officer and fire fighter hires will be enrolled in the State's LAGERS retirement system, the City's existing self-funded pension plan will be closed to future hires, and police officers and fire fighters hired after July 2, 2006 will be offered the option of voluntarily migrating from the City's self-funded pension plan into LAGERS.
e. make a recommendation within the next City budget regarding the FY10 deferred compensation/employee matching program for exempt, unclassified staff designed to help recruit and retain high-quality leaders within the City staff.
f. not seek any new city-wide tax proposals during the life of the pension sales tax. This does not apply to renewal of existing taxes, nor does it apply to any joint tax proposals with Greene County.
g. see that the City Manager works with staff to identify any significant assets owned by the City's General Revenue Fund and make a recommendation to City Council as to which of these assets should be sold with the net sale proceeds being contributed into the pension system.
Questions: This resolution may be presented to new members of the City Council for approval. Will you support the resolution the current City Council passed?
Not in its current form, but I would be willing to with a few changes. I like the statement affirming taking all the telecommunications lawsuit money and putting it towards the pension shortfall. The contribution number of 29.88 percent is fine with me. This beats the almost 52% Greg Burris was talking about contributing if the sales tax does not pass.
Is there any stipulation of the resolution that troubles you? Yes
If so what and why?
The resolution statement that states the council would not seek any other city-wide sales tax proposals. I agree with Cynthia Rushefsky when she commented that agreeing to a sales tax moratorium is ill advised because you never know what the city tax might be needed in the near future to meet an emergency need. Would it influence your ability to support the resolution, in the future, should you be elected to the City Council in April, 2009? I appreciate the service of the current council members in regards to this resolution. I will not feel bound, though, to this current resolution.
6). How would you have voted on the sales tax initiative if you had been sitting on the City Council on November 24?
I would have voted no. I do like the idea that the citizens of Springfield, MO get to decide this issue at the ballot box. I am surprised that the council vote to send this to voters was unanimous, given that a large percentage of voters will probably vote this measure down in February.
Paid for by Donegan for Mayor - Leslie Donegan, Deputy Treasurer