Today, Bowen is 64 and preparing for another legal battle, as he and other retirees feel the collectively-bargained changes to the city's retirement program violate the rights they won in court.
"They turn around and negotiate for 14 months with the unions to come up with this so-called beneficial plan without saying one word (to retirees)," said Bowen, who retired a corporal in the
Funding retirement plans for former police and firefighters has dogged the city for years. The plan was 89-percent funded in 2010 and projected to fall to 43 percent in 2025 unless changes were made, according to a letter from
Rensted declined to comment for this article, citing possible litigation.
"Each retired member's pension shall be increased by the same percentage as any increase in the pay scale for members of the same rank and years of service who are on active duty," the code reads.
Bowen and other retirees sued
The city's retirement plan liabilities increased by
The changes immediately fund the retirement plan by 100 percent, according to the city.
Retirees under the old plan were not represented during the 14-month union negotiations. Some felt blindsided when they later learned of changes to their plan.
"When you do something like the city's doing, that has a direct impact on people with limited incomes," said
Annual 2-percent increases, in many ways, represents an improvement for both the city and the retirees. Underfunded pension plans previously hurt the city's bond rating with major
The city contributed
A 2-percent increase also is consistent with the annual cost-of-living increases given to retirees over an 18-year period, according to the city.
Yet the survivors of earlier pension legal battles remain wary of the changes adopted by the city.
The statute of limitations over retirement plans would be exhausted within three years, said Hall, who spearheaded the retires' legal efforts in 2002. If the retirees don't fight for the language now, he asked, what's to stop the city from reducing pensions in the future?
"If we allow them to do this and get away with this, we wasted our six years in obligation to fight for what's legally right," Hall, 64, said. Hall retired as a lieutenant in the
The city disagrees that the changes to the retirement plan are unlawful. After elected officials trumpeted the 10-percent salary increases in public forums, Rensted noted in a letter that increased employee pension contributions effectively raised take-home pay by only 5.5 percent over the next three years.
The distinction could prove important in future litigation.
"The changes are 'justified by countervailing equities for the public welfare,'" Rensted wrote on
Retirees say attempts to negotiate changes to the pension plans with the city have been unsuccessful over the last seven months.
"This was not a good faith reform of the pension system; it was a subterfuge to shift the cost of pay raises for active members to the retirees," he wrote.
Deso, who represented
For many, those payments are a race against the clock. Thirteen of the 62 retirees involved in the original lawsuit against the city have died since 2002, Hall said.
"It's an expensive life out here," Jones said. "When you're living on a limited income, every dime counts."
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