There are often myths that need to be clarified:
Employees do not contribute to their retirement (FALSE)
Employees contribute anywhere between 6.5% and 8% to the retirement fund, depending on when they were hired. Employees contribute more than the City.
Firefighters and Police Officers can retire with a full retirement and insurance after just 12 years (FALSE)
Rank and file employees must have 25 years of service before they can retire or have at least 10 years of service at age 55. Public Safety employees hired after July 1, 2012 must have 25 years of service and be at least the age of 52 before they can retire. Non-Public Safety employees must be 62 before they can retire.
Firefighters and Police Officers make big money from the city when they retire (FALSE)
The average rank and file firefighter who retires with 25 years of service makes around $34,000 per year in retirement. Almost $4,000 of that goes to pay for their city health insurance. (Yes, retirees pay for their health insurance through the city)
Retirees receive a "bonus" check at the end of each year like the City of Detroit's retirement system (FALSE)
Cost of living adjustments for retirees are recommended by the Mayor and approved by the City Council. Typically, they have been between 1% and 3% with the 3% for the retirees who have been retired the longest. These cost of living adjustments are not guaranteed like other municipal retirement systems. The last three years have resulted in a cost of living increase of 1/2 percent each year with no increase granted by the Council in 2013.
Retirees receive their pension and social security from their years of service with the city (FALSE)
City employees do not pay into social security. Their only retirement from the city is their pension. Any employment the person had outside the city for which they paid into social security is slashed when they receive social security benefits from that employment because they are receiving a government pension. The City of Memphis opted out of Social Security many, many years ago.
The city administration and some council members have been quick to use the term "unfunded liability." What does this term mean?
If every city employee were to retire today, the pension fund would be unable to pay out over the next 30 years. Most citizens have an unfunded liability on their home, as they do not have enough money to pay it off at one time.
How does the current pension system affect me, the city taxpayer?
The city budgets money every year for retirement system. The city pays 6% of payroll into the pension fund each year, which is less than what employees pay into the fund. The City (funded by the taxpayer) pays less into the pension fund as they would pay into Social Security if we were under Social Security. Out of nearly 500 public pension plans we researched, we are the only one where the employee pays more into the system than the employer.