Springfield Mayor Mike Houston says financial pressures make for budget challenges in the city. Among them, police and fire pensions. The city’s funds are underfunded by more than $200 million. Sean Crawford reports:
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Houston blames lower investment returns and the state legislature changing pension laws for how the problem got so bad. Houston says the city is adding one million dollars more toward the regular pension payment as part of a plan to bring down the debt.
But critics argue Houston’s budget should do more to address the matter. Some have questioned why pay raises are included for employees. Houston says the pay hikes are part of collective bargaining, adding the city has little room to negotiate. He says the city is taking a long-term approach regarding the pensions.
HOUSTON: “We’re putting in as much as we can put in. We have a plan that is long term to meet our obligation. And if you feel that we need to be doing more, then you ought to be thinking in terms of how you are going to generate more revenue which is a tax increase. And I don’t have any aldermen who are talking of a tax increase.”
Houston says the pension funding problem is widespread across the state. He’s part of a group of cities lobbying state lawmakers to rein in the costs.