It’s official: Two of the town’s three pension plans are frozen, and 29 Longboat Key firefighters have been enrolled in the Florida Retirement System (FRS) pension plan.
As anticipated, the changes occurred Oct. 1, at the beginning of the town’s new fiscal year.
General employees now have new 401(a) accounts that allow them to invest up to 16% of their salaries into the plan.
After a few hiccups last week, FRS officials agreed to enter the firefighters in the plan as long as they held a ballot vote that allowed them to decide whether they wanted to be entered into FRS.
Twenty-seven firefighters agreed to enter FRS. Two firefighters were on vacation at the time of the ballot and have also been enrolled in FRS.
The town and FRS-enrolled firefighters will split the plan’s required contributions 50/50, with the town’s maximum contribution capped at 13%, according to the new three-year contract that was ratified in February.
Five firefighters, who have entered the Deferred Retirement Options Program (DROP), declined to enroll in the FRS pension plan.
Those employees are Tom Batchelor, Matt Altman, Rob Jacobs, Pete Collandra and Frank Stoudt.
Because their pension payouts are currently accumulating in a separate interest-bearing account while they continue to work for the next three years, they no longer will contribute 10% to the frozen pension plan. Those firefighters, therefore, will see a 10% increase in pay that previously was being put toward the frozen plan.
Longboat Key commissioners are pleased with the hybrid pension solution that was reached.
The town offered a similar plan to the Longboat Key Police Union, but a contract could not be reached during negotiations and the police union and the town are at impasse concering a new contract.
With FRS pension costs rising, police officers were afraid to take a pension option that could take more money out of their paychecks after the town’s cap is reached and officers have to pay for costs above that cap.
They also declined to accept an offer before a mandated deadline that offered a 401(a) retirement plan that included a 3% pay increase and would have given officers another 7% increase in take-home pay.
A police union contract impasse hearing will be held Oct. 16 to discuss the points of contention of a new contract. Commissioners will then review recommendations.