PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – The city pension plan is grossly underfunded and is in dire need of a cash infusion.
However, what you haven’t heard much about is how the city got into this mess.
One reason is that the city continues to pay workers a pension they shouldn’t be receiving.
If you’re hurt on the job and you can no longer work, the city rightly gives you what’s called a disability pension.
However, more than two years ago the city determined that five such workers have recovered from their injuries. Yet, they continue to be paid for sitting at home.
It’s been debated for months to lease or keep the parking garages.
What’s the best plan to bail out the pension fund?
There’s very little mention of what got us into this hole.
“There’s not a plan that’s been put on the table that deals with the problem and the problem is the cost size of the pension,” City Controller Michael Lamb said.
One reason may be because of workers getting a pension who shouldn’t be. Injured workers who retire early get more than those on a regular pension and more than two years ago, the city determined that five such workers were now healthy enough to return to work. However, none of them have returned to work.
KDKA Investigator Andy Sheehan tried to contact those workers and managed to talk with two of them. They told him on the phone that their disabilities still prevent them from returning. But, even though a panel of three doctors said they’re now healthy, the city has yet to get them back to work.
Three of those had worked as 911 operators and left the job before the city merged its system with the county’s emergency operation.
The city said it’s had trouble finding them a position in the county system and that there are additional legal complications with seniority and other union rules.
It’s already been more than two years and the taxpayers continue to pay these workers for doing nothing.
“It’s clearly something that’s generating a cost to the pension fund that we can’t afford,” Lamb said.
The city pension fund is underfunded by hundreds of millions of dollars, so this is just a drop in the bucket.
However, Controller Lamb said even if a bailout goes through, the city must manage the pension with a tighter fist.