Deputies' Pension Amendment Hinges on Uncounted Votes

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Gordon Boyd

Knoxville (WVLT) - So how likely is it, that two thousand votes would change the pension results?

"Unless there's some huge disparity, and for some reason, people who were voting on that machine were bitterly opposed to the petition, we assume it's gonna pass," says Dwight van de Vate, from the Knox County Mayor's Office.

What's made the vote so close?

For some, the issue pits their hearts against their heads, and they've had to square, who benefits, and how much?

"We put our lives on the line, I don't think it's too much to ask that we be able to retire comfortably," barring what's now seen as improbable, 11-year-sheriff's patrol veteran Todd Sleet has just had some fears of his latter years eased.

Instead of matching his contributions, dollar for dollar up to six percent, Knox County's, or more specifically the taxpayers', share would nearly double.

"It's a huge leap of faith to think that you could just do this within the confines of the existing budget, without either taking money away from an existing program," says van de Vate.

"Me, personally, I believe the money is there, period," says Stan McCroskey from the Fraternal Order of Police.

Knox County figures giving more than 770 deputies the same pension plan as Knoxville Police would cost $57 million, spread over 30 years.

"Who knows, what the economy, a year or two or 25 years from now, will be?" argues van de Vate.

"That's one percent of the total county budget, period," says McCroskey. "Everybody's budget, even the family budget, always has a little fat."

Then how does the Fraternal Order of Police explain why a plan it billed as fundamentally fair, has been so tough to sell?

"Just some bad information, bad assumptions, we probably designed it not well and didn't work it the way we should have," says McCroskey.

The FOP blames published reports that claim Sheriff's Tim Hutchison would get $81,000 a year, for life, if this pension planned passed.

That, leaders say, is true, but only because Sheriff Hutchison has more than a quarter century in law enforcement.

The sheriff's withheld comment until these final 2,000 and some votes are counted.