Public-safety employees consider joining state-run pension plan

A majority of Grand Junction’s sworn firefighters and police officers want to learn more about the possibility of entering into a nonprofit, state-run pension plan. That was the report Grand Junction City Council members heard at a workshop Monday night.

Whether the total of about 300 employees will want to go forward with the pension plan after receiving personalized estimates of payouts remains to be seen.

The city of Grand Junction’s police officers and firefighters can opt to enroll in the pension plan, but the action would be irreversible and would include all sworn employees. However, police officers and firefighters can decide as separate groups whether they want to enroll in the plan, called the Colorado Fire and Police Pension Association. City Council on Monday night decided to draft a non-binding resolution that would allow the association to contact the city’s employees to offer them more detailed and personalized information about the plan.

“We’re not willing to commit our members without seeing the numbers,” said Chris McCoy, an employee and representative of the Fire Department.

City Council members may ultimately have to decide whether to allow firefighters and police to enroll in the pension plan. While it is currently funded and there are measures in place that ensure states pay out pensions, similarly-formed plans have been known to go dry and become the responsibility of local taxpayers. For example, the city currently pays out pensions to 51 former employees from a former pension plan that had set city and state contributions. Grand Junction taxpayers now pick up the bill for $427,000 a year for those retired police and $245,000 for the retired firefighters’ plan. The state still pays on the police plan but for years has deferred its funding and is only expected to pay $88,000 of the total this year.

On the other hand, if council members allowed employees to enroll in the plan Grand Junction would save money by not having to match those employees’ current retirement plans.

The city currently offers retirement contribution plans for all its full-time employees. Police and fire employees receive matched 10.65-percent contributions without Social Security, and general employees receive 6.2-percent matched contributions after Social Security.


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