Detroit's police and fire retirees could face cuts to benefits

Detroit's police and fire retirees could face cuts to benefits

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Don Taylor represents 6,500 retirees from Detroit's police and fire departments. Don Taylor represents 6,500 retirees from Detroit's police and fire departments.
DETROIT (WJBK) -

They put their lives on the line to protect Detroit in every season and dedicated their careers to public safety. Now thousands of police and fire retirees could face painful cuts to their pension and healthcare benefits because Detroit does not have the money to live up to its obligations.

"It's pretty difficult if they cut you and you can no longer survive on the income that you have. No one's going to hire somebody that's 70, 80, 90 years old. I don't think there's too many jobs out there available," said Don Taylor.

He was a police officer for 26 years and is now president of the Retired Detroit Police and Firefighters Association representing 6,500 members.

Taylor attended Friday's meeting with Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr and left disappointed by what he heard.

"Part of this is because of the corruption in the City of Detroit that's taken place over the years, and it's poor leadership that should've seen this coming years ago when it declined in the population," he said. "They took no steps to correct the action, and they just continued along a path of destruction."

Taylor pointed out that his union actually agreed to reduce their healthcare benefits years ago, saving the city about $30 million a year.

No specifics have been given on the cuts, and retirees are anxiously waiting for the numbers.

This union and the city's two pension boards are preparing for a possible battle in court. The pension boards have $5 million set aside, and Taylor said his union is also prepared to take this to a courtroom to protect retirees' rights under the state constitution.

Orr has said he does not believe the constitution protects benefits from a city that cannot afford them and has no way to pay back its liabilities.

A Michigan State economics professor estimates that the city faces $4.9 billion in future healthcare costs for retirees.

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