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NKY Cities Staring Down Big Pension Increase as Bill in Frankfort Stalls

It was going to be dealt with in a special session late last year.

Then no such session happened.

So, instead, pension reform was going to be the top priority of the regular session of the General Assembly.

It was even dubbed Senate Bill 1.

But as the session's days wane, no reform package has been adopted.

Instead, rhetoric has heated up with Republican Governor Matt Bevin criticizing teachers as being selfish and short-sighted for their blistering criticism of the reform bill's proposals, which include a reduction in the annual cost of living increases for retired educators. That reduction would take the yearly raise from 1.5 percent to 1 percent, a move that Republican lawmakers argue would save the state $3.2 billion over the next twenty years.

The bill has drawn mounting protest - and a demonstration in Frankfort that attracted a thousand teachers and educators to protest.

Bevin toned down his rhetoric over the weekend in a message posted to social media and said that he has tremendous respect for teachers, but that if reform doesn't come, there won't be a retirement system.

Meanwhile, local leaders are also concerned about the pension bill. In order to stave off collapse of the state pension system, local governments are being asked to up their contributions.

Some of the numbers are staggering and are crippling local cities' budgets.

At Saturday's meeting of the Kenton County Mayors Group, local city leaders listened to a presentation from a representative of the Kentucky League of Cities, and a decision was made to craft some language so that all the cities could post a message of unity to social media, informing residents of what's to come.

Cities are urging the General Assembly to phase in the increased contributions from local governments.

In Fort Mitchell, the annual increase is estimated to be $379,000 dollars per year, Mayor Jude Hehman said in a letter to residents. He's chairman of the mayors group. He said his city is facing a major budget crisis. "We need the General Assembly to help us from facing a massive increase in our pension payments by enacting some form of rate relief before they adjourn," Hehman wrote. "Whether or not the General Assembly can pass more comprehensive legislation dealing with public pensions, this action is needed now, to counter act the arbitrary actions taken by the retirement board this summer!

"The residents of Fort Mitchell must know and understand that we are projected to pay an additional $379,000 dollars per year starting July 1st, and we will have to make adjustments to our budget and taxes to cover and absorb all additional costs if the General Assembly fails to do something."

-Michael Monks, editor & publisher