Tax decrease could jeopardize service, Local 1889 leadership says

“Lasting or remaining without essential change” is the definition of permanent.

If a permanent property-tax decrease as proposed by Board of Directors Chairman Aaron Hilmer were to be approved by the voters of the Mehlville Fire Protection District, it would tie the hands of all future boards of directors and could jeopardize the quality and level of service provided to the residents.

Chapter 321 of the Missouri Revised Statutes gives power to all fire-protection boards to set the tax rate as high or low as needed within the maximum voter-approved tax rate. The current Board of Directors would like for citizens to forget that in November 2004, with an 86-percent voter turnout, a tax increase was passed. Then in April 2005, with only a 13-percent voter turnout, Aaron Hilmer and Bonnie Stegman were voted into office — not exactly the overwhelming voice of the voters that they would like for the citizens to believe.

The same provisions for setting the level of the pension tax are provided by Section 321. Mr. Hilmer speaks of $700,000-plus pension payouts, but fails to mention that these benefits were accrued over these employees’ 30-plus years of service.

Lump-sum payments are a one-time pension payout with no cost-of-living increases or any future benefit to the recipient.

Lump-sum payments are healthy for pensions because that person’s pension is no longer a liability to the pension fund.

Consider that the $700,000 is anticipated to provide an average of 20 years to the recipient or $35,000 per year. Hilmer also fails to mention that he, Ms. Stegman and Mr. Ryan have approved $700,000-plus pension buyouts, then turned around and hired the same personnel back into their same position.

As long as the defined-benefit pension is in litigation, the district is under court order to continue funding it. That funding comes from the voter-approved pension tax that was first approved by residents in 1968.

Since that time, employees of the Mehlville Fire Protection District have reciprocated by providing professional and highly qualified fire suppression and emergency medical services. Without competitive wages and benefits, quality personnel will always be looking toward other avenues — departments — to further their careers.

Executive Board

Local 1889

Mehlville Firefighters and Paramedics