Thousands of county employees worried about future of pensions

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ)- It is a story that hits thousands of Kentuckians right in the pocketbook. People count on having a pension when they retire, but the state’s pension system is in crisis and will run out of money in the next five years, according to the state. It is prompting members of one plan to want to divorce the state system. They are calling on lawmakers to separate the county and state systems.

The Kentucky League of Cities hosted a meeting Monday to talk about that separation. The group says it is the best way to protect firefighters, police, and other city and county employees.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty with this type of work. What’s going to be there for my family? What’s going to be there for me?” Lexington firefighter Kevin Pletzke asks.

He says he is hooked on helping people.He says if you have an emergency, firefighters are usually on the way.

“We try to make things better for you when things aren’t really going that well,” Pletzke said.

How will we help them? The host of Monday’s meeting, Kentucky League of Cities, and at least 22 other groups, say the system for city, county, police, and fire pensions, CERS, should be separated from the state system.

Organizers say CERS is healthy and they want to keep it that way by moving it under local control.They worry that will not happen as lawmakers start discussing a fix for the state’s pension crisis. Those rumors include a possible switch to a 401k. Firefighters say it would not be enough because most of them do not get social security.

Pletzke says the fire department he used to work for in Florence is having trouble recruiting people because of the uncertainty

“You’re only going to make the problem worse by continuing a funding option that causes turnover and the inability to recruit people and in the end, we need people to be able to respond when people are having a bad day,” Pletzke said.

While those at the meeting talked about the health of CERS, Governor Matt Bevin feels differently. A statement his communications director sent ABC 36 says the system is in weak condition and now is the time all groups should work together to ensure retirement security.

The full statement:

“One of Gov. Bevin’s top priorities is fixing Kentucky’s failing pension systems. CERS is in very weak condition, requiring serious discussions about how to save it. Now is the moment all groups should work together to ensure retirement security for current and future public employees and retirees.” – Amanda Stamper, Director of Communications

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