Syracuse Common Council votes to fix decades-old pension error, costing taxpayers $750,000

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SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) – The correction of a decades-old error will cost the City of Syracuse nearly three-quarters of a million dollars in pension payments.

On Monday, the Syracuse Common Council approved a one-time payout of $384,000 and an annual increase of $9,500 for one Syracuse police officer, as well as a $384,000 payout and $21,000 annual increase for three Syracuse firefighters.

The total value of the retirement measure is $753,500.

Between 1999 and 2006, the four individuals, for whatever reason, were left out of the state’s 20-year retirement plan for first responders. The reason for this error is still being disputed by city officials and union representatives for both the police and fire departments.

“The firefighters are getting what was due to them. A clerical error that took place many years ago that was no fault of their own. It’s correcting a wrong is all it’s doing,” said Local 280 President Paul Motondo.

Motondo blames a paperwork issue on the city’s part, meant the four individuals were receiving the state’s base pension, but were never placed in the higher tier they should have been.

“It was just a lack of a signature, lack of a proper notarized that created this issue,” said Motondo.

City Operations Manager Corey Driscoll Dunham disagrees.

“This is being characterized as a clerical error when the reality is this was a communication that went out to the employees that there was no evidence that they responded to,” said Driscoll Dunham.

Regardless of whose at fault, the measure was unanimously approved by the Syracuse Common Council and will now head to Albany where it is also expected to pass.

‘This shows the importance of taking care of things when you become aware of them. This could have been a lot less expensive if we had fixed it when we first became aware of it,” said Councilor-at-Large Tim Rudd.

Rudd said if the issue was addressed years ago, it would have likely cost the city 10% today’s amount.

“We realize there are real people behind these, these are real people’s lives. But all evidence points to the fact that they were given the opportunity to correct it, failed to do so, and now the city taxpayers are going to have an additional quarter of a million dollars that they will be paying for,” said Driscoll Dunham.

Driscoll Dunham said the city will likely have to make up the through bonding.

“I don’t know how you don’t fix so that the person who has earned their pension can retire when they deserve to. Even when it’s expensive, even if it’s hard, it’s still the right thing to do,” said Rudd.

First responders are now automatically enrolled in the higher tier pension plan, in order to prevent problems like this.

The measure would need to be passed by the end of state legislative session on June 19.

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