Town Manager Dave Bullock confirmed Friday, Dec. 14, that the town of Longboat Key is moving forward on a three-year contract with the Longboat Key Fire Rescue Union.
The news came after the Longboat Key Town Commission held an executive session with Bullock and the town labor attorney Dec. 14, to discuss a an agreed upon contract.
“We are now working on a contract and the detail language,” Bullock said. “In the near future, there will be a full contract that both sides must ratify. If the union ratifies the contract, I will get it to the commission as quickly as I can with my recommendation to approve it.”
The agreed upon contract calls for:
• Freezing the current pension plan, after allowing six current firefighters to enter the Deferred Retirement Options Program (DROP).
• A 3% cost-of-living allowance wage increase in year one and raises and cost-of-living increases in years two and three of the contract, only if other non-represented town employees receive such a raise.
• Allowing all current and future firefighters to participate in the Florida Retirement System (FRS) pension plan, with the town agreeing to match employee contributions up to 13%.
If any additional requirement is required, it’s up to the firefighters to provide the additional contribution.
Bullock has requested town labor attorney Reynolds Allen sign off on the details of the contract that the union can ratify before it will come forward for the commission’s ratification as well.
At a special Firefighters’ Pension board meeting Monday, Dec. 17, Longboat Key Fire Rescue District Vice President Keith Tanner said he hopes the union can ratify the contract by the end of the year and that the commission could approve it at its Monday, Jan. 7, regular meeting. Tanner and the union are waiting to review the contract currently under review by attorneys.
At the special meeting, Tanner and pension board member Shannon Gault approved a motion to table a forensic audit of the firefighter pension while the contract is discussed.
“With developments going on through negotiations, it looks like there is approval (for a contract) coming from both the union and the town,” Tanner said. “For us to hire somebody right now for a plan that’s most likely being frozen, I think, is a waste of time and money.”
The motion to table the audit was approved 2-1, with board member Matt Taylor voting against it.
Last week Commissioner Lynn Larson called the proposed contract “a win-win for the town.”
“This contract takes the uncertainty out of the financial equation, because it’s a defined contribution on the part of the town,” Larson said. “For the employees, it gives them what they really want. We compromised and the fire department compromised, as well, to come to the middle.”
Larson hopes that in the short-term, once a contract is approved and the current pension plan is frozen, fees the town currently pays to actuaries, attorneys and accountants will dwindle.
“After years of negotiations, I believe we have something that’s good for the employees and good for the town,” Larson said.
“This met criteria to get out of the pension business, and the firefighters can still retain and attract employees.”
It has been the commission’s goal to freeze the town’s pension plans and cap more than $27 million in unfunded liabilities for which town taxpayers are left holding the bag.
Up next are future negotiations with the Longboat Key Police Department Union, although the union isn’t ready to begin negotiations as quickly as Town Manager Bullock wants.
Longboat Key Human Resources Manager Lisa Silvertooth sent an email to officers and their union attorney Nov. 12, seeking to schedule talks for a future contract in January.
In a Dec. 4 follow-up email to Silvertooth, police union attorney Dianne Morton expressed through union members she’s declining to schedule negotiations right now because the police contract with the town doesn’t expire until Sept. 30, 2013.
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