CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Charleston Mayor Danny Jones is continuing his calls for hikes to the City’s fire fees and refuse fees.  He was expected to formally introduce his proposals for increases during Monday night’s Charleston City Council meeting.

“We’re having this conversation, not because we’re raising the fees.  We’re having this conversation because of the pensions,” Jones said when asked about the need for additional revenue sources in Charleston on Monday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”

In the new budget year, Charleston will put $500,000 into its pension funds for police officers and firefighters and that number is only expected to grow in the coming years.

Jones has argued, because towns and cities are subdivisions of the state, the state should be responsible for fulfilling the pension promises.  Until that happens, Jones said city officials will have to find ways to meet the obligations.

As of last September, the city’s unfunded liability for police and fire pensions was estimated at $274 million.

The fire fee in Charleston has not been raised since the 1980s.  Jones has proposed doubling the fire fee from the currently monthly residential starting rate of $1.25 per 1,000 square feet to $2.50.  The refuse fee, as suggested, would be raised to $20 each month beginning next July.

Charleston is not alone in its pension problems.  On average, pension programs statewide are about 20 percent funded, compared with funding amounts in Charleston of six percent and eight percent.

According to a recent analysis, the more than 50 police and fire pension plans statewide in West Virginia — together — were $1 billion short of the promised pension benefits for uniformed personnel.

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  • FungoJoe

    Nanny Jones has never met a fee he didn't want to raise. Mr. Jones, how many city employees are working on their second retirement with the City? How many retired police officers and fire fighters already have one pension and are working in another department and a 2nd retirement? That should be illegal. How can the City taxpayers sustain a 70% retirement rate for employees?
    Fools gold at the end of Nanny Jones's rainbow.

  • Joe

    All pensions should be transferred into 401ks for new and current employees.

    Whatever happened to bring responsible for ones own retirement savings. Taxpayers pay for public services. The employees should save and invest and not buy every toy that comes along without a worry for a retirement cash flow.

  • MK

    The city should stop promising pensions they can't afford. All new hires should be put in a 401(k). Taxpayers should not have to pay for someone who no longer provides them any service. Without the pension burden, perhaps the city could pay higher salaries to current employees. Thus attracting more qualified applicants and boosting their 401(k) contributions on the way to a better retirement. All without having to unnecessarily raise fees. You are welcome. If you have any other problems, just let me know.

  • hillbilly

    I live in Morgantown and my fire fee for a year was $68.20. My house is 1,024 square feet.

  • jm

    Using Dollar Danny's logic.......... the state should be responsible for the pensions of all of Charleston's city employees.........including his own............. Get off your horse. The city of Charleston under King Jones chose to ignore the problem of underfunding the pension program for years. Now that someone is holding them accountable, he wants to blame someone else and try to get bailed out...........How bout a paycut in the Mayors office to help pay for it.

  • Molon Labe

    Maybe Danny should cancel a years worth of car shows, live on the levee's, festivalls etc to make up the difference.

    After all, these things cost the city more to put on than the profits they make.

  • john

    The State mandated the formula for the retirement systems, the municipalities were tasked with implementing it. Beckley did a wonderful job and their retirement system was 400% funded the last time this nasty thing reared it's ugly head. How is that Charleston and Huntington (in particular) were not able to do the same? Same formula. Different administrations.

    I agree with Danny Jones on part of this, the citizens of Charleston need to pay more for their fire and police protection. Go ahead, raise the rates of every single citizen OF CHARLESTON. They live there, let them pay for the mess.

    But be warned, you go to the State House and try to get one single dime to make up for YOUR OWN CITY'S MISTAKE and there will be a fight like you've never seen before..... wait... you did see it before, and we kicked your ass.

  • guy

    Charlestons pensions are in the shape they are because of Jones and the other politicians. They fail to tell you that the merger of Charleston FD and Charleston EMS, coupled with a lack of fulfilling contributions from the municipality has crippled those funds. When he wants to blame someone, he needs to go look in the mirror, not at council, not at the citizens, and not at the public safety officers who protect that city 24/7

  • ViennaGuy

    - Jones has argued, because towns and cities are subdivisions of the state, the state should be responsible for fulfilling the pension promises. -

    So basically, Danny Jones wants everyone in the state to foot the pension bill for his city's police and fire departments.

    Hey Danny, I want everyone in the state to foot my bills, too. Are you willing to pay my bills for me?

    What's that? You're not willing to do it?

    Then don't demand that I pay your bills for you.

  • Tom

    For years, the West Virginia Legislature, along with local governments, didn't give employees annual salary increases because they couldn't afford to. So to keep the employees satisfied, they substituted improved benefit packages (better retirement and health care plans along with more vacation time), which didn't cost anything at the time, for higher salaries. In other words, they "kicked the can down the road." The road has now come to an end. And the bills for those attractive benefit packages, which were never fully paid for because like the salary increases there was no money to fund them, are now coming due.

    • Aaron

      The West Virginia Legislature or the City of Charleston?

  • Aaron

    "Jones has argued, because towns and cities are subdivisions of the state, the state should be responsible for fulfilling the pension promises."

    Is the state the entity responsible for agreeing to the pensions? Did the negotiate the rates and add increases in lieu of pay raises over the years?

    Cities, municipalities, counties, states and the federal government are finding out that legacy cost are going to be the concrete slabs that break the taxpayer back.

    The Cities of Detroit, MI, San Bernardino, CA, Stockton, CA, Harrisburg, PA and Central Falls, R.I. along with Jefferson County, AL already know this as each has filed bankruptcy.

  • Bob

    How long has Mr. Jones been mayor? - maybe he should retire since the fire fee hasn't been raised in 34 years? They have an unfunded liability of $274 million - where is his due diligence as the mayor?