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The Missouri Court of Appeals heard arguments today over whether or not the city of St. Louis' new pension plan for firefighters will hold. Officials say the plan will save St. Louis almost $4 million a year. The union representing the firefighters doesn't dispute the cost savings, but says the city had no right to pass the plan in the first place. 

(UPI/Bill Greenblatt)

The Missouri Court of Appeals will hear arguments tomorrow on whether the city of St. Louis had the right to make changes to the pension benefits it offers its firefighters.

In lobbying for the changes in 2012, Mayor Francis Slay cited the financial burden pensions were beginning to place on the city. Its budget for fiscal year 2013 included a $31 million contribution to the system, up from $23 million the year before.

(Rachel Lippmann/St. Louis Public Radio)

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen is a step closer to addressing some legal concerns with its new pension system for firefighters.

The measure cleared a procedural hurdle today, 18-10. A final vote will take place next week, likely with a similar result.

Judge Robert Dierker issued a preliminary ruling in October that the city was in rights to terminate the old pension system for firefighters and start a new one. But Dierker had some concerns about the way the new system treated vested employees.

(Rachel Lippmann/St. Louis Public Radio)

Updated at 4:30 p.m. with comments from Jeff Rainford.

St. Louis city firefighters who have served at least seven years with the department will be able to move outside the city boundaries.

The Missouri Supreme Court ruled today that the Missouri Legislature was within its rights in 2010 to pass a law overriding local residency requirements for fire departments in cities where the school district is unaccredited or provisionally accredited.

(Rachel Lippmann/St. Louis Public Radio)

One day after the Missouri Farm Bureau reaffirmed its support for Congressman Akin, Senator Claire McCaskill announced endorsements from the Missouri chapters of the firefighters and police unions.  During a conference call, the incumbent Democrat praised the two groups.

"You know, none of the people who go into this line of work do it for the money," McCaskill said. "What they're looking for is a way to serve and give back and have a salary for their families."

Mayor Francis Slay scored a decisive victory Friday in his months-long battle to rein in firefighter pension costs. In a 17 to 10 vote, the St. Louis Board of Aldermen approved major reforms to the department’s retirement system, cutting benefits, raising payments, and preventing full retirement until age 55.

Slay’s office estimates the changes will save the city $8 million a year in pension costs that have more than quadrupled in the last five years.

Mayor Slay’s Chief of Staff Jeff Rainford says the reforms are necessary and protect taxpayers. 

(Rachel Lippmann/St. Louis Public Radio)

After five months of debate, major reforms to the pensions for firefighters in St. Louis City are about to become law.

(via Flickr/Be.Futureproof)

Now, no one in Illinois can stop firefighters or police officers from collecting charitable donations on roads - even if they wanted to.

Under a new Illinois law, public safety officials can't be denied permits to collect money for charities from drivers along roadsides. Gov. Pat Quinn signed the law Friday and it takes effect immediately.

The governor's office says Illinois is the sixth state to adopt such a law. The others are Florida, Nebraska, Texas, California and North Carolina.

File photo

Updated at 3:35 following actions by committee.

Attorneys for the Trustees of the Firemen's Retirement System of St. Louis announced today that they've filed a five-count lawsuit against the City of St. Louis regarding the ongoing pension issue.

Joseph Leahy/St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay says cutting the fire department’s pension costs will enable the city to take 30 police jobs off the chopping block.

The Board of Police Commissioners voted Monday to hold onto 30 of the 80 police positions this year’s budget eliminates through attrition, but only if a pension reform bill is passed by the Board of Alderman.

Slay says the bill, which requires firefighters to pay more into the system and prevents full retirement benefits until age 55, would save the city more than $8 million.

(UPI/Bill Greenblatt)

An effort by St. Louis mayor Francis Slay to get the spiraling cost of firefighter pensions under control also allow the same sex-partners of city firefighters to get survivor benefits if their partner is killed in the line of duty.

"This is something that could not be done at the state level, would not be done at the state level, which is another reason we want to get local control of the firefighter pensions here in St. Louis," Slay said.

(Rachel Lippmann/St. Louis Public Radio)

Though they waited until the last possible minute in the current session, the St. Louis Board of Aldermen has approved a measure that lays the ground for reforms to the pension system for its firefighters.

(UPI/Bill Greenblatt)

A Missouri House committee has unanimously passed a bill that would make cuts to firefighter pensions in St. Louis, but not before committee members made a few changes to the legislation.

New St. Louis firefighters would pay in 9 percent of their salaries, instead of 8 percent as originally proposed, and applicants would have to disclose any pre-existing injuries and conditions before being hired.  New hires would still get back 25 percent of what they pay in as originally proposed.  It’s sponsored by State Rep. Mike Leara (R, Sunset Hills).

(Rachel Lippmann/St. Louis Public Radio)

A Missouri House committee heard testimony Monday on legislation that would make cuts to the pension system for St. Louis firefighters.

The bill would not go as far as a proposal made by Mayor Francis Slay:  Among the differences, Slay’s plan would have all firefighters put 9 percent of their salaries into the system, and new hires would not get any of that money back upon retirement.  The bill in the State House would have new firefighters put in 8 percent, and upon retirement would get back 25 percent of what they paid in.  F.I.R.E. Chairman and St. Louis firefighter Abram Pruitt, Junior, traveled to Jefferson City to support the bill.

(Rachel Lippmann/St. Louis Public Radio)

All sides involved in the effort to bring down the cost of pensions for firefighters in the city of St. Louis say negotiations are going well.

(Rachel Lippmann/St. Louis Public Radio)

The dispute over the best way to reduce the cost of firefighter pensions in the city of St. Louis continued on Friday, with Lewis Reed, the president of the Board of Aldermen, laying out his plan.

Reed, whose Twitter feed tracked the progress of a Thursday late-night meeting among himself, firefighters, and selected aldermen, says his plan will reduce the city's required contribution into the Fireman's Retirement System for next year by $7.6 million. Reed unveiled the plan at a City Hall news conference Friday.

(Rachel Lippmann/St. Louis Public Radio)

The political fight raging over Mayor Francis Slay’s efforts to reform the pension system for St. Louis city firefighters continued at City Hall Friday.

The dispute started last week when board president Lewis Reed refused to assign the bills to a committee. Reed contends the board's rules give him until next Friday, Feb. 25, to make a decision.

(Rachel Lippmann/St. Louis Public Radio)

Though they had no legislation to officially consider, members of the Public Employees Committee of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen spent almost three hours today discussing proposed changes to the pension system for the city's firefighters.

(Joseph Leahy/St. Louis Public Radio)

St. Louis city firefighters took their objections to pension reform proposals from Mayor Francis Slay to City Hall on Friday, the day the legislation making the changes was formally introduced.

Firefighters say they don't object to the cost-saving proposals in the bills, including reduced disability payments for firefighters who can be retrained for a second career, and a two-tier system that could reduce pension benefits for new hires.

(Rachel Lippmann/St. Louis Public Radio)

Updated at 12:20 p.m. with comments from the firefighters union.

Updated at 3:55 p.m. with timeframe, and more comments from Mayor Slay and the union.

Saying the current system is financially unsustainable and could result in huge reductions to city services, Mayor Francis Slay has officially unveiled his plan to change pensions for the St. Louis city firefighters.

(via Google Maps screen capture)

The former city administrator for Brentwood, Mo. is on probation for the next five years, including six months of house arrest, for embezzling about $30,000 from the mid-county municipality.

Christopher A. Seemayer will also have to pay a fine of $2,000 and make restitution of $15,383 to the city. He pleaded guilty in June to two counts of federal program theft for taking cash advances on the city of Brentwood credit card to use while gambling at the Casino Queen in East St. Louis.  The city, unaware of Seemayer's actions, paid the bills with city funds.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: For Mike Eads, a federal grant program to help local fire departments forestall layoffs provided some extra firepower in a crisis situation.

Eads is the fire chief at the Neosho Fire Department in southwest Missouri. In February, it received $780,643 from a Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant. SAFER is one of many grant programs under the Federal Emergency Management Agency's grant programs directorate -- part of the Department of Homeland Security -- that provides funds to local agencies.

(Adam Allington/St. Louis Public Radio)

Will be updated as more information becomes available

Firefighters in the city of St. Louis got some better news today.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency announced that the department will receive $3.2 million federal funds over the next two years in the form of a SAFER grant. (That stands for Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response.)

(Rachel Lippmann, St. Louis Public Radio)

The "long and arduous" fight over the budget for the city's fire department will go on for another week.

The three-member Board of Estimate and Apportionment tabled the layoffs of 30 firefighters at the request of Board of Aldermen president Lewis Reed. Reed, comptroller Darlene Green, and Mayor Francis Slay will make the ultimate decision about the layoffs.

(UPI/Bill Greenblatt)

St. Louis firefighters were told last week that they'd be subject to 30 layoffs. Yesterday, Comptroller Darlene Green said she would push a plan to furlough firefighters instead of laying them off.

Today, as the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports, the firefighters have responded.

City of St. Louis to lay off 30 firefighters

Mar 15, 2011
(Adam Allington/St. Louis Public Radio)

The St. Louis firefighters union lashed out at city hall today after the mayor announced the layoffs of 30 firefighters.

The mayor's office claims that firefighter pension payments are doubling to nearly $11 million in just two years and risk bankrupting city government.

Chris Molitor is the President of Firefighters Local 73.  Among other things, he accused the mayor of refusing to negotiate in good faith.

"When I woke up this morning, I had to see if I was living in Wisconsin or St. Louis, Missouri…this is wrong," Molitor said.

  • According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay announced late last night that the city will lay off 30 firefighters. Chief of Staff Jeff Rainford says the city will cut 24 more positions through attrition, bringing the cuts to nearly 10 percent of the departments 600 firefighters. Fire Chief Dennis Jenkerson says the layoffs will not impact public safety.

There’s been a temporary delay in a new skirmish between the city and its fire department.

Ald. Matt Villa has held a bill that aims to change the way certain benefits for firefighters are funded.