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.