New Orleans has been ordered to pay $17.5 million to the city firefighters' pension fund as its 2012 obligations in a long-running legal battle between the city and the state-mandated retirement system.

Civil District Court Judge Robin Giarrusso said the city must "immediately budget, appropriate and pay" the $17.5 million plus interest to the fund after deliberately underfunding the pension system.

Giarrusso said the city has no legal options to avoid its annual contributions as determined by the retirement system's actuarial advisor. Without changes to the law by the Legislature, Giarrusso ruled the city must comply with the law as it currently stands.

New Orleans has appealed the ruling.

Reform measures to the firefighter and police pension systems are included in Mayor Mitch Landrieu's requests from the 2013 Legislature.

Benefits and the contributions into the fund are defined under state law. New Orleans contended that the benefits and longevity raises in the law are too generous and beyond the financial capability of the city.

New Orleans issued taxable fixed-rate bonds supported by a property tax in October 2012 to refund $109.2 million of outstanding pension bonds.

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