Kentucky firefighters, police pensions under contention

Kentucky pension reform is raising some big concerns for first responders and other public servants.

On Thursday, a coalition of Kentucky cities called on lawmakers to save their current retirement system, demanding local control of local pensions.

“They’re seeing a direct attack on their retirement security,” Professional Fire Fighters Local A-16 President Joe Baer said.

Twenty-four agencies, including fire and police unions, are part of that coalition sounding the alarm, after a private consulting firm recommended keeping the County Employee Retirement System with the state, delaying and reducing benefits for first responders.

For Covington firefighter and father of four Tyler Cherry, it could set his retirement back nine years.

“So when you look at planning out your life, for your wife, your children, for your wife, your retirement, all of a sudden you’re looking at eight years to 17 years is a huge difference,” Cherry, a captain in the Covington department, said.

Some say the toll the job takes on the men and women who serve would make additional years of service difficult.

“That can be a huge emotional drain on an individual by the time they reach that,” Alexandria Fire District Lt. Glenn Kilby said.

Kilby asked lawmakers questions Thursday in Florence, worried about his retirement on Oct. 1.

“My family’s grown and had their own families. It’s just me and my wife. I still want to be assured that I have that income to sustain our life,” Kilby said.

Now these workers, all under the County Employee Retirement System, or CERS, want to separate from the state and sustain their own pensions locally. It’s something at least one local lawmaker supports.

“I think it only makes sense to let the cities and counties that contribute to the retirement system control their own money,” Sen. John Schickel, R-11th District, said.

Now first responders are asking all Kentucky lawmakers to listen to their pleas.

“What we’re saying is it’s our money, it’s our system, let us manage it the way we see fit,” Baer said.

Local union leaders explained it is important to note, many firefighters impacted by this plan, do not participate in social security, therefore the pensions are even more vital for them and their families’ financial future.

Several other groups are a part of the CERS retirement plan, including school teachers, jail employees, and court and city staffers just to name a few.

A special session of the Kentucky Legislature is expected to be called in a few months to vote on the pension reform bill.

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