"I spent 30 years running into burning buildings. It was a stressful job," said 72-year-old Wallington, who retired from the department in
Wallington, who lives in
"When you save somebody, you feel good. You lose somebody, it's depressing," he said.
When someone died in a fire, he'd think of his own son and daughter.
Once, he said, he was unable to save a baby in a fire as the mother waited outside. "You've got to tell them; I couldn't do it," he said.
Now when the stress of the job should be long gone, about 24,000 city retirees are taking on a new kind of stress as they're forced to deal with personal budget cuts. In
The city's initial bankruptcy blueprint -- the plan of adjustment -- released Friday calls for slicing monthly pension checks by up to 10% for police and fire retirees, such as Wallington.
City retirees from other departments, such as library workers and others, could see their pension checks slashed by up to 34%, depending on negotiations and final numbers.
Cut roughly one-third of someone's pension?
"If it's going to be that kind of cut, that's huge," said
For Hautau, the cut in the monthly pension could range from about
"You don't sit there and take away that kind of money and not expect it to be a hardship."
Retirees need to know, of course, that mediation and talks continue. And the effective date of cuts would have to be determined, too.
The general retirement system needs deeper cuts because the plan is not as well funded as the police and fire retirement system.
The plan of adjustment noted that pension cuts could be smaller -- 4% for police and fire retirees and 26% for general city workers -- if a deal is approved in a timely way, which would trigger outside donations meant to help pensioners.
Smaller pension checks would remain until at least 2023. The monthly pension payouts have a shot at being higher after that, if the pension systems become better funded.
Running the numbers
Everyday bills, of course, remain for retirees who ran their households based on a promised pension. Many retirees talk of mortgages that must be paid, car insurance bills, medical bills, cable bills, taking care of children with disabilities, you name it.
What will they need to do? For many, it's too early to tell what changes will need to be made.
"They won't really know how it hits them until after the first year," said
The bronze plans are attractive because of their low monthly premiums and they might be a good deal for those who don't go to the doctor very often. But in these entry-level plans, consumers pick up a bigger share of medical costs when they need care -- about 40%.
Fear of unknown
Coping with the unknown and the unexpected hasn't been easy for many.
"You grew up real fast," Kaczmarek said.
Kaczmarek graduated in 1966 from
She started making about
Kaczmarek, who retired in 2012 with about 31 years of service, said she took a job at the
"It's really, really upsetting," she said Friday after hearing the numbers while attending a funeral. "It's a lot of money."
She wants to take a trip to
But Kaczmarek has been unsure about spending the money. She's not even sure she can pay for some of the extra expenses involved with her dog Kiwi, who has behavioral issues.
Kaczmarek took home
But Kaczmarek does have an ace up her sleeve.
At 65, she's yet to claim her
And she has another backup plan with about
Still, "I didn't think that people would take away my money," Kaczmarek said of her pension cuts.
Upsetting apple cart
Many retirees didn't imagine how the city's financial troubles could hit them, either.
Hautau retired in 2008 after working 33 years for the
Early in his retirement, Hautau had plans to downsize and sell his home on the water in
He said he still has a sizable mortgage on the house, a mortgage he thought would be gone once he was able to sell that house.
Wallington, the former fire captain, said it's a real possibility that he won't be able to travel three times a year, as he has been doing, to spend time with his two grandchildren who live in
Wallington said he receives a pension of about
Wallington didn't earn
"I can't work any more," Wallington said. "So I have to adjust to whatever they give to me."
Some of his big bills are about
The winter has been hard, and he's seen gas and electric bills together reach
Even so, Wallington said he feels he's better off than many
And while he understands the bankruptcy means concessions must be made, it doesn't seem right for retirees to have to take cuts.
"It's wrong at our expense," he said. "Everything you do to us is hurting our lifestyle."
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