Pension surprises

Victor Ashe
Government/Politics columnist

The five re-elected members of City Council are in their final four-year term; they’ll have served eight years by 2017, when their new term expires. They will be the next-to-last council members to receive a city pension as the new charter limits pensions to persons who worked 10 years or more. With term limits, no one will serve on the council or as mayor more than eight consecutive years.

This means Vice Mayor Nick Pavlis will be eligible to receive $153.28 a month upon concluding his current term as he will be 63 then. Brenda Palmer, Duane Grieve and Nick Della Volpe will be eligible for $171.04 a month as each will be 65 or older when their terms end in 2017.

Former mayor and council member Daniel Brown will make out the best due to his 10 months’ service as mayor between Bill Haslam and Madeline Rogero. His city pension is based on $130,000 annual mayor’s salary, while council pay is $19,000 a year. Brown will receive $774.47 a month when he retires in 2017.

Council members Marshall Stair, Mark Campen and George Wallace are much younger than their other colleagues and will not have reached age 62 when they depart council in 2019 (assuming re-election in 2015). When they do reach 62, their council pension will be $145.68 a month. Of course, if one of them runs for mayor and is elected, that pension will increase significantly based on whether he serves four or eight years.

Since the charter provides for an annual 3 percent increase for retirees, each 10 years will have a 30 percent compounded increase in their pensions by 2027 for all of these individuals.

Mayor Rogero (assuming eight years as mayor plus her prior service in the Haslam administration) will earn $2,734.89 per month. This also assumes council does not raise the mayor’s salary, currently at $130,000, which is less than five other current city employees and $23,000 less than the county mayor.

However, Deputy to the Mayor Bill Lyons, if he stays eight years with Rogero plus his eight years with Haslam and Brown, will enjoy a pension of more than $58,000 a year based on 16 years with his highest two years being $180,000 a year. Right now it is $168,000, but it will increase $3,000 a year compounded for the next six years for an $18,000 total increase or perhaps more due to the 2.5 percent annual pay raise for city employees.

Assuming the four council members who are eligible for a second and final term in 2015 are re-elected, then the city will have two years in which no member of council can seek re-election. Neighborhood groups and developers will have little influence on them in terms of opposing their re-election as they cannot run for a third term. But some of them may consider a 2019 mayoral bid to follow Rogero.

■  Judith Foltz, city director of special events, deserves high marks for her efforts to revive the Christmas trees on the downtown rooftops in the city for 2013. Her efforts resulted in 75 new trees, but 60 of them were on the top of the City County Building (actually on the side of the roof). Mayor Rogero issued a statement in strong support.

Unfortunately, two major city buildings in downtown Knoxville apparently did not know about the Rogero-Foltz effort as the main fire hall and the city convention center did not have a single lighted Christmas tree on their rooftops despite the mayor’s public backing.

Foltz says this next Christmas will be different. Certainly, there should be trees on these two city-owned buildings, which are centrally located. It is hard to convince private owners to install Christmas trees on their rooftops at their expense if the city itself is not doing it for its own buildings. The project was started by Sue Clancy and Roseanne Wolf and reached over 400 trees on roofs in downtown Knoxville. It was continued by Mickey Mallonee, who was the next director of special events.

■  Ambassador Cameron Munter will speak at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 5, at the Toyota Auditorium of the Baker Center on Cumberland Avenue. He served as ambassador to Pakistan when U.S. Special Forces took out Osama bin Laden. He also was ambassador to Serbia 2007-09 and deputy chief of mission in both Poland and the Czech Republic. The talk is open to the public and should be fascinating. He is a noted authority on international relations.

Leave a Reply