Cedar Falls questions police and fire pensions during budget - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Cedar Falls questions police and fire pensions in budget talks


Like many cities in the state, Cedar Falls is faced with some tough budget decisions.

On April 1, 2013, Cedar Falls eliminated its attorney position that was held by Tom Meyer.

Mayor Jon Crews said by cutting the position, the city will save about $100,000.

Crews said about 70 percent of the city's budget pays for employee salaries which includes costs for public safety.

But in a recent newsletter in the City of Cedar Falls Currents, an article seems to narrow in on public safety pensions as the culprit for budget problems.

Crews said the article was written by the Administrative Services Director Dick McAlister, though McAlister would not confirm if he wrote the article on Wednesday.

"If you look across the country pension costs are a major issue," said Crews. "We're no different than other places in the nation."

The Cedar Falls Police Department and Fire Department, along with more than 50 other departments in the state, are under what's called a "411 Pension Plan."

According to Executive Director of the Municipal Fire and Police Retirement System of Iowa Terry Slattery, employees under that particular pension plan are required to contribute 9.4 percent of their gross wage.

Slattery said cities contribute about 26 percent of the payrolls and the state pitches in nothing.

"When times are hard cities have to make up the difference," said Slattery.

Crews said Cedar Falls has contributed approximately $1 million to public safety pension funds in the past four years.

"It's a problem. It's not the only problem, and there's a fairness issue of pensions," said Crews.

Crews said he wants the state to contribute more to the pension program and relieve the financial burden placed on the city.

He said a task force has been formed, and the group will come up with a plan to keep the city on the right track long-term.

"We're in a good financial position today, but if we don't do some changes looking out four or five years, we would be in a bad situation," said Crews.

Crews said at least six city employees make $100,000 or more, but he said there are no plans to focus budget talks around eliminating those positions.

Instead, he said when positions become vacant city officials will re-evaluate whether filling the position is necessary.

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