Freezing the police pension plan by the Longboat Key Town Commission-imposed October deadline just became more difficult, if not impossible, for Town Manager Dave Bullock.
In a July 24 letter to police union attorney Diane Morton-Bailey, town labor attorney Reynolds Allen wrote, “In light of the failure of the PBA (union) to accept any of our three alternative offers, the town is ready to precede with the impasse procedure immediately.”
The union opted not to accept any of the town’s three retirement options last week when it held a vote of its 11 members.
The town left all three offers on the table for the union to consider, which included two different pension options with the Florida Retirement System (FRS).
Longboat Key firefighter/paramedics chose an FRS plan similar to one option earlier this year, when they agreed to split required FRS contributions 50/50, with the town’s maximum contribution capped at 13%. The contract also gave firefighters a 3% wage increase.
But with FRS pension costs rising, police officers are afraid the option would take more money out of their paychecks once the town’s cap is reached and officers have to pay for costs above that cap.
The union also couldn’t agree to a pension alternative. The town offered a 401(a) retirement plan offer that included a 3% pay increase and gave officers another 7% increase in take-home pay.
If the employee elected to make a 3% contribution that the town would match and utilized an additional 7% for an additional unmatched contribution to that alternative offering, then the total percentage toward retirement, including Social Security, would have been 35.4%. That offer also came with 2% wage increases in years two and three of the contract.
Police officers currently invest 10% of their pay into an underfunded pension plan the town seeks to freeze.
Bullock intended to finalize a contract and freeze the police pension plan by Oct. 1, along with the town’s other two pension plans.
But Assistant Town Manager Anne Ross said the impasse process “is a lengthy one.”
“It means we start at ground zero,” said Ross, referring to the negotiation process.
Allen sent a list of impasse issues from the town’s point of view to the union this week for its review. Once it’s finalized, a special master/magistrate will be picked to handle the impasse procedure, unless the union agrees to bypass impasse proceedings and discuss the issues directly with the Town Commission.
Contact Kurt Schultheis at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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