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City of Cincinnati Issue 4 (November 2013), Ballot Language Change

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Back to Cincinnati Pension Reform Charter Amendment Initiative, Issue 4 (November 2013)

Lawsuit

On September 11, Cincinnati For Pension Reform filed a lawsuit against the Hamilton County Elections Board seeking to change the language that the board approved for the ballot. The Elections Board altered the language before voting to put it before voters and the lawsuit claims that the ballot question misrepresents the wording of the full proposed charter amendment and illegally adds to the text of the amendment through "conjecture and partisan argumentation." Initiative supporters especially disapprove of a section that states that the proposed pension reform amendment would “require the city of Cincinnati to pay forecasted pension obligation shortfalls by creating new revenues, which may include new or additional taxes or fees, and/or other revenue sources ...”. The group behind the initiative had requested an expedited ruling.[1]

The Ohio Supreme Court ruled in favor of the group, Cincinnati For Pension Reform, and ordered that the ballot language be changed for Issue 4. This required the re-sending of absentee ballots. Election officials say they will keep track of ballots that have already been turned in to avoid counting two votes for one person. The Ohio Supreme Court Justices did leave language that was objectionable to Issue 4 proponents namely the sentence that said the initiative could force the city to cut services or raise fees to cover pension system liabilities.[2]


Old ballot language

Issue 4:

Shall the Charter of the City of Cincinnati be amended to add Article XVII that would:

1. Require the City of Cincinnati to pay forecasted pension obligation shortfalls by creating sufficient new revenues, which may include new or additional taxes and fees, and/or other revenue sources, and/or by implementing sufficient cost savings, which may include cuts to city programs or services, to fund any projected shortfall of the Cincinnati Retirement System which, as determined by an independent financial audit, would result in insufficient funds being available to pay forecasted future obligations of the Cincinnati Retirement System within ten years from the date of the audit's completion;

2. Require current City employees to choose to continue to participate in a defined benefit plan with maximum allowable percentages of salary provided pursuant to retirement benefits of individual employees or enroll in a defined contribution plan under which the aggregate retirement benefits paid by the Cincinnati Retirement System may not exceed the aggregate of an employee's individual contributions, which can be made at any level, and the City of Cincinnati's contributions, which shall not exceed the employee's individual contributions, and shall not exceed nine percent;

3. Provide future City employees with only the defined contribution plan described herein;

4. Provide that no past or present City employee shall be entitled to collect retirement benefits while simultaneously earning income from the City or any other political subdivision or government agency or entity;

5. Provide for a potential cost of living adjustment for beneficiaries of the Cincinnati Retirement System not to exceed the increase in the consumer price index, but which shall not exceed a simple rate of 3% per annum, which cost of living adjustment may be temporarily suspended when necessary at the discretion of the City of Cincinnati;

6. Provide for enforcement of this amendment to the extent permitted by law and further provide that any Cincinnati resident, whether injured or not, shall have the right to bring a civil or equitable action to enforce this amendment, and be entitled to have their attorneys fees and expenses paid by the City if they prevail?

SHALL THE PROPOSED CHARTER AMENDMENT BE ADOPTED?

YES

NO[3]

New ballot language

Note: The added language was underlined by a Ballotpedia staff writer to highlight differences.

The question on the ballot:

Issue 4:

An Amendment to the Charter of the City of Cincinnati to Add Provisions Relative to Pension and Retirement Plans for City Employees.

Shall the Charter of the City of Cincinnati be amended to add Article XVII that would:

1. Require the City of Cincinnati to pay forecasted pension obligation shortfalls by creating sufficient new revenues, which may include new or additional taxes and fees, and/or other revenue sources, and/or by implementing sufficient cost savings, which may include cuts to city programs or services, to fund any projected shortfall of the Cincinnati Retirement System which, as determined by an independent financial audit, would result in insufficient funds being available to pay forecasted future obligations of the Cincinnati Retirement System within ten years from the date of the audit's completion;

2. Require current City employees to choose to continue to participate in a defined benefit plan with maximum allowable percentages of salary provided pursuant to retirement benefits of individual employees or enroll in a defined contribution plan under which the aggregate retirement benefits paid by the Cincinnati Retirement System may not exceed the aggregate of: a) the employee's individual contributions, which can be made at any level, b) the City of Cincinnati's contributions, which shall not exceed the employee's individual contributions, and shall not exceed nine percent; and c) the return on an investment plan to which employee and employer contributions are made. Employees may increase or decrease their retirement savings through investments.

No employee hired after the date of the Amendment shall maintain a property or contractual right to any retirement funds above and beyond those which he or she has contributed, along with the investment return earned by those funds. City Council and Voters maintain the right to reduce future benefits, as required by this Amendment or otherwise. Even the first dollar of City investments is entirely voluntary, and the City can decide at any time to end its contributions, even retroactively.

3. Provide future City employees with only the defined contribution plan described herein;

4. Provide that no past or present City employee shall be entitled to collect retirement benefits while simultaneously earning income from the City or any other political subdivision or government agency or entity;

5. Provide for a potential cost of living adjustment for beneficiaries of the Cincinnati Retirement System not to exceed the increase in the consumer price index, but which shall not exceed a simple rate of 3% per annum, which cost of living adjustment may be temporarily suspended when necessary at the discretion of the City of Cincinnati;

6. Provide for enforcement of this amendment to the extent permitted by law and further provide that any Cincinnati resident, whether injured or not, shall have the right to bring a civil or equitable action to enforce this amendment, and be entitled to have their attorneys fees and expenses paid by the City if they prevail?

SHALL THE PROPOSED CHARTER AMENDMENT BE ADOPTED?

YES

NO[4][3]

References