After a year of budget troubles, Pueblo City Council is bracing for another year of financial struggles. The city needs to come up with $1.8 million a year to pay for firefighters' pensions. About 100 firefighters and their families rely on the money.
"This was kind of devastating news for a city that's already had to make many cuts and simply cannot afford to make any others," said Pueblo City Council President Sandy Daff.
The city has been paying $1 million a year into the pension fund of firefighters who began working for the department before 1978. The state has also contributed to the pension plans but in 2013 the state completed its requirement to fund local "old hire" plans. The money the state was contributing to Pueblo pensions will now need to come out of the city's budget.
City Manager Sam Azad said, "If we can expand our revenue in any form or shape, that would be our best solution."
Azad said the key will be finding a way to generate revenue. He added the city already has 80 vacant positions so cutting more is not the answer. "We are struggling to provide just basic services to the community as it is," he said.
Daff said, "We need to make sure we live up to our obligation while at the same time running a city efficiently and making sure that calls for service are answered."
When factoring in life expectancy, the city anticipates having to pay $1.8 million for 12 years starting in 2015.