The amount: $875,000 over 25 years — that’s the decision the Longboat Key Town Commission has to make when it holds a special meeting at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 14, at Town Hall.
That monetary amount is the estimated bill for Longboat Key taxpayers if the commission allows general employees within five years of retirement to enter the Deferred Retirement Options Program (DROP) and/or early retirement.
The commission voted 4-2 to continue the July 1 public hearing to allow Town Manager Dave Bullock to return with language that adds a five-year DROP option to the ordinance, which will freeze the general employees’ pension plan Sept. 30, and provide information about the impact of an early-retirement option.
DROP employees are effectively retired but continue to work for the town, and the town places their monthly pension checks in an interest-bearing account.
At the July 1 meeting, general employees rose to the podium to tell commissioners that the town is going back on a promise if it decides to freeze the general employees’ pension plan without providing an early-retirement option that was given to the firefighter/paramedics and has been offered to police officers.
The contract firefighters ratified in February included a DROP option, but several commissioners pointed out that firefighters and police typically have different benefits than general employees because their jobs are high-risk.
The state first implemented DROP in the early 2000s to give top public-sector employees an incentive to stay in their positions instead of going to work in the private sector.
Commissioner Jack Duncan urged fellow commissioners to allow general employees to enter DROP, saying that the commission’s goal was to get out of the pension business while remaining committed to maintaining benefits for employees.
Mayor Jim Brown and Commissioners Jack Duncan, Pat Zunz and Terry Gans voted in favor of the DROP option July 1 and to reconsider an early retirement option. Vice Mayor David Brenner and Commissioner Phill Younger voted against the motion.
Commissioner Lynn Larson, who was unable to attend the July 1 meeting, plans to vote no at the Aug. 14 meeting.
Larson requested more documents about salaries July 19, some of which show that 75.6% of the town’s general fund for fiscal year 2013-14 is made up of personnel costs.
At the Aug. 14 meeting, commissioners will also see pension numbers for the first time from actuaries that will reveal how much it’s going to cost the town to pay for the frozen pension plans moving forward. Once the numbers are solidified, the 2013-14 fiscal year recommended budget numbers will be adjusted accordingly.
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