Tucson wins round in pension battle - Tucson News Now

Tucson wins round in pension battle

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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

Pension battles are happening in cities and counties all over the country.

Pension obligations are growing rapidly as metro budgets are shrinking.

Tucson is in the midst of fighting a pension battle against Tucson Police and Fire.

It won a court ruling this afternoon which allows it to move forward with a new city policy which may make future pensions smaller for public safety officers.

For the past 12 years, police and fire with 15 years on the force, were allowed to use their unused sick time to pad their base salaries to increase their pensions.

That ended this week, on June 1.

They were also allowed to sell back that unused sick time to the city.

For 100 of them last year, it was more than $7,000.

That won't change. What will change under the policy is that it will no longer be allowed to increase, or spike, pension payouts.

Tucson's police union, TPOA, filed a request for a temporary injunction to keep the policy from going into effect.

That request was denied by Superior Court Judge D. Douglas Metcalf.

He scheduled further arguments in the case on June 20.

The union argued that a similar case was being heard in Phoenix and Tucson jumped the gun. It should wait until a decision was made in the Phoenix case before implementing the new policy.

In arguing the case for the city, Tucson city Attorney Mike Rankin, told the judge the city would suffer irreparable harm by issuing the injunction.

Tucson must pay more than 50 cents into the retirement system for every dollar the officers pay.

If the injunction was granted, Tucson would have to resume those payments until the Phoenix case was adjudicated. That could take months or years.

"And we're not sure if it would even impact Tucson," Rankin said.

Rankin believes the new policy will save Tucson $1 million in the first year.

He believes it would be easier to make the system whole again if it loses in court rather than pay now, claw back later if needed.

The first ruling is over but the case is not.

"The change we decided to make in not treating sick leave sell back as pensionable will go into effect, will continue in effect while we litigate this case," he said.

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