CITY HALL – Mayor Lyda Krewson’s word may not be the final word. There should be enough votes on the Board of Aldermen to override her veto of a bill changing the leadership of two retirement plans for city firefighters.
“The St. Louis comptroller, budget director, city counselor and some aldermen have expressed grave concerns about the negative financial impact [the bill] may have on the city’s financial condition. I share those concerns,” Krewson said in a Feb. 25 letter to aldermen explaining why she vetoed the bill.
Aldermen approved the bill on Feb. 5, with 19 yes votes, three no votes, four voting present, one not voting and one absent. A two-thirds vote, or 19 altogether, is required to overturn a veto.
The change, meant to save money, would allow the Board of Trustees of the Firemen’s Retirement System to act as the Board of Trustees of the St. Louis Firefighters’ Retirement Plan.
The Firefighters’ Retirement Plan was formed in 2013 and covers all firefighters hired since then. The Firemen’s Retirement System covers firefighters hired before then. Both have separate boards and a separate staff to administer them.
Sixteenth Ward Alderman Tom Oldenburg, the bill’s sponsor, could not be reached to say whether he planned to seek to override the veto. The board is now on break during the local election campaign. It will return for a final meeting of the 2020-2021 session, on April 19.
“I’m pretty confident we’ll have the votes to override the veto,” said Twenty Fifth Ward Alderman Joseph Vaccaro, one of the cosponsors. He noted that the bill had 20 cosponsors besides Oldenburg.
“I hope so,” said Fourth Ward Alderwoman Dwinderlin Evans, who also cosponsored the measure.
In her letter, the mayor said that the bill proposed to get rid of the Board of Trustees of the new and better-performing Firefighters’ Retirement Plan. The board of the older plan, which has a poorer return, would manage both systems.
The mayor wrote that the newer Firefighters’ Retirement Plan made 4.2 percent profit for the year that ended Aug. 30, 2020, while the older Firemen’s Retirement System made 10.23 percent in that period.
“There are inherent conflicts in one board directing both plans and inherent legal questions about replacing the efficient and well performing [Firemen’s Retirement System] employees and board,” Krewson wrote.
Also, Missouri law doesn’t allow the Firemen’s Retirement System board to run both plans, the mayor said. There would have to be a change in state law. The combined plans would be under state control.
Comptroller Darlene Green issued a statement supporting Krewson’s veto.
“The mayor made the fiscally responsible call by vetoing Board Bill 221, and I encourage the Board of Aldermen to consider her comments, as well as the comments I and Budget Director Paul Payne have made previously in opposition,” Green said.
“There can be no doubt: Being a firefighter is one of the most challenging jobs in the city,” Green continued. “Each and every one of us depend on our firefighters for their bravery and experience. We respect our firefighters and all first responders and want to support healthy pension plans.”
The comptroller wrote that she believed it would be possible to deal with the inequities between the two plans while still maintaining city control of them.
“I look forward to working with other city leaders, firefighters and retirees to ensure that our pension plans are fair, competitive and fiscally responsible,” she wrote.