Ohio lawmakers reintroduce bill to change cities’ police pension contributions
State lawmakers will take another crack at increasing local police department's contributions to the Ohio Police and Fire Pension Fund, after a bill to do so stalled in the last legislative session.
Reps. Cindy Abrams (R-Harrison) and Thomas Hall (R-Madison Twp.) introduced legislation Thursday to up local municipalities’ contributions as employers of police to 24%. Individual police officers’ contributions to their own pension fund have increased over the years, but the employer contribution rate—currently sitting at 19.5%—has not changed since 1986.
“That’s nine years before I even came into this world,” Hall said at a press conference announcing the Public Safety Pension Modernization Act.
Mounting pressures limit how much money is put into the pension fund, said Ohio Fraternal Order of Police President Gary Wolske. More officers are retiring at the same time that fewer recruits are joining the ranks, Wolske said, threatening its solvency.
“A stable, well-funded retirement is a vital tool for recruiting new members,” Wolske said. “An unstable system will make the difficulty for communities across Ohio even more challenging, at a time when communities face unprecedented challenges in recruiting and retaining first responders.”
The bill that stalled last legislative session included more ambitious figures. The state’s rate for municipalities’ contributions to firefighters’ pensions is currently set at 24%. The bill would have raised both police and fire employer contribution rates to 26.5%. Wolske said the police and fire unions are “trying to be good partners.”
But Ohio Municipal League executive director Kent Scarrett said the latest proposal would still burden the local governments that issue public safety workers’ paychecks. With increased liabilities, he said the newly introduced legislation is only estimated to cost localities about $1 million less than its earlier version: dropping from $57 million to $56 million total.
“A million dollars, in the grand scheme of things, in this conversation, really doesn’t move the needle much,” Scarrett said. “This is an unfunded mandate placed on our cities and villages and ultimately, that mandate falls on our taxpayers and our communities.”
Lawmakers have yet to meet with any Ohio cities or towns to discuss the proposal further, Abrams said.