Ellen Smith for Oak Ridge Rotating Header Image

Injustice for Oak Ridge retirees — and the whole community

Time passes, and retirees from DOE’s Oak Ridge facilities continue to watch their buying power erode, with no hint that they will ever see another pension increase.

This whole community is hurting as a result, since the people who are being denied an increase are solid citizens who are now less likely to be able to purchase goods in local stores, invest in upkeep of their homes, or otherwise contribute to the local economy.

In a recent column in the Knoxville News Sentinel, Dub Shults (a retired scientist who served as a division director at ORNL) compiled some of the facts:

He is better off than many. He says: “I retired at the end of 1994 after 43 years of company service. Since that time, my pension has increased by 4.3 percent while the cost of living has increased by 41.2 percent.  All things being considered, my purchasing power today is 65 percent of what it was when I retired in 1994.”

“The [retirees’] request is for an increase in the pension of each retiree, effectively restoring approximately 75 percent of the purchasing power that each retiree has lost during retirement.”

If pensions were adjusted, “Anderson and Roane counties would accrue 51 percent of the financial benefits of the requested adjustment in pensions… In terms of dollars, the adjustment would bring approximately $65 million in increased pensions into our area.”

“Sufficient funds exist in trust to cover the expense of the requested pension adjustment without additional funding and without jeopardizing the liabilities of the pension program. Indeed, the trust is over-funded to such an extent that payments into it were stopped in 1984.”

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One Comment

  1. Ray Kircher says:

    This is a very sad blog post Ellen. I have made many choices to prepare for my retirement and plan for the use of more options for retirement always wondering is this enough? I can see it will not be, for as you stated the upkeep and sustainability of living in Oak Ridge has kept increasing.

    I do believe we have another route for helping retirees, and that is to freeze property taxes and to provide tax-exempt goods and services to retirees. For instance the property tax is an issue Tennessee citizens has voted for and are waiting for implementation, and goods and services can be paid for with a retiree card similar to the state welfare card. I can reduce my cost of goods and services by 35% if only my documentation can be used to show what goods and services were sold to a retiree for a tax deduction on goods and labor used there. Something like a retiree state I.D. that would allow me to collect information for tax-exempt status. One example would be a gallon of milk. The retiree was paying 24 cents tax for a gallon of milk but today they are paying 50 cents for the same gallon. No one living on a retirement plan paid for in the 20th Century can with stand the cost and tax increases. With increased prices our government is seeing increased collections but goods are moving off the shelf slower, and that has hurt everyone.

    I do hope our retirees have the income to stay in Oak Ridge, but it doesn’t seem like the government wants to stop taxing them after 50+ years of paying into taxes.

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