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Prop A opponents and Metro disagree on retiree benefits

John Burns talks to reporters at a press conference on Thursday.
(St. Louis Public Radio photo)
John Burns talks to reporters at a press conference on Thursday.

By Bill Raack, St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis, MO – Opponents of the half-cent sales tax increase for Metro in St. Louis County are accusing the public transit agency of deceiving voters about its finances.

The group, Citizens for Better Transit, cites a Metro report that says the agency is underfunding its retiree benefits obligation by about $11 million a year. Group spokesman John Burns says Metro has not addressed the shortfall as an agency or with the voters.

"It further validates our assertion that number one, Metro is being mismanaged and number two, Metro isn't being forthcoming about information to the point where I think it's fair to say that they're being deceptive about it and they're trying to pull the wool over the eyes of the voters," Burns said.

Metro spokeswoman Diane Williams responds that they're not required to do so.

"We record it. We're not obligated to fund it and haven't funded it. Didn't in 2008, 2009. We will likely start but we'll keep it manageable."

Williams says Metro is currently looking for ways to mitigate those future retiree benefits obligations. As of 2008, that liability totaled $168 million, not including pensions.