SPRINGFIELD, Mo. In just one week voters will head to the polls.
In Springfield they will decide on whether or not to keep paying a tax to fund pensions for police and fire fighters.
“We don’t pay into social security. We don’t have access to social security so this is our retirement. Unless there are outside investments this is it,” explained Chief David Pennington with the Springfield Fire Department.
The Springfield Police-Fire pension fund was established in 1946. Its purpose is to take care of our officers and fire fighters when they retire.
“There is a very real impact any time that we have an unfunded liability, a pension obligation, that the city has to account for,” said Pennington.
The fund almost ran out of money nearly 10 years-ago. The city asked voters for help. The 3/4 cent sales tax increase was created.
Once again, voters are being asked to pay 75 percent of a penny for every dollar they spend. This would put millions into the retirement fund.
“There’s a five year sunset on it by state statute. That’s why it is back now for the third time”
Fully funding the plan at one hundred percent will cover retirement benefits for hundreds of first responders.
Pennington said, “Should the tax not pass, should the voters choose not to approve, then we have to make some hard decisions.”
This includes trimming Springfield’s yearly budget which could mean cutting services.
“We’re making good progress. We’re not there yet but we want to continue to make that progress,” said Springfield Mayor Ken McClure.
“Voters are smart. We have a very engaged community and because of that when they come to the polls they are generally well informed,” said Pennington.
Springfield’s general fund could take a hit to cover the costs the city is obligated to pay.
McClure said, “This is about staying true to the commitment that we as a community made to our police officers and our fire fighters.
“If nothing else is remembered it’s important to know that this is the continuation of an existing tax,” said Pennington.
By state statute this tax will continue to be on the ballot every five years or until the pension plan is fully funded.
If renewed, officials expect to reach their goal this time around which means this could be the last time voters see this measure.