Phoenix sees retirement surge ahead of Prop 487 vote

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

PHOENIX -- With the public about to vote on a controversial ballot measure regarding pensions of City of Phoenix employees, the city is apparently seeing a spike in retirements.

According to city officials, 303 employees retired between July and September, up from 120 during the same time last year.

Another wave of retirements is expected if Proposition 487 passes, as another 1,000 workers are eligible to put in their papers this year, potentially damaging city services.

"I call us the seniors; we've been here a long time," said Abe Arvizu.

For 27 years, Arvizu has kept the lights on at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.

But election year politics are chasing the Phoenix electrician and hundreds of other city workers out the door.

"I'm going to be retiring Nov. 18," he said.

Arvizu is part of a recent surge of retirements hitting City Hall as employees race to cash in on their pensions before voters decide the fate of Proposition 487.

"It has factored into my decision because I'm going to lose money," Arvizu said.

The ballot measure trashes the city's current pension system for new employees. It also prohibits current workers from cashing in on unused sick time and vacation when they retire.

"Right off the bat, I'm going to lose between 300 and 350 and 400 dollars a month for sure," Arvizu said.

But Councilman Sal DiCiccio is defending Prop 487, saying it will fix pension abuses and save the city money over the long run.

"If we don't fix pension spiking, you're going to have more and more cuts later when it comes to the fact that they don't have enough money," he said.

So, what about the chances that Prop 487 will pass? On that, DiCiccio wasn't very confident.

"It's going to be a very close election," he said.

If Prop 487 does pass, city officials expect the issue to go to court, potentially costing millions of dollars.