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Sarasota Friday, Apr. 1, 2011 6 years ago

New pension options please city retirees

by: Robin Roy City Editor

APRIL FOOLS — The city was looking at what it was calling “a financial crisis on the horizon,” but it may have come up with a solution.

Pension costs are soaring at City Hall, and retirees would have collected $16.8 million in benefits next year. Realizing it will only collect $14.9 million in ad valorem tax revenue, city administrators set out to change the current system.

Unions have been reluctant to trim any benefits for their members, but the proposed solution could make everyone happy.

The city will pay retirees what they have earned, but instead of paying cash, it is giving former employees a few options.

They can collect their benefits in gift cards — either to Chili’s, Outback Steakhouse or iTunes.

One former city employee, who did not want to be identified, said he is looking forward to the new benefits.

“Every day, I can have a Santa Fe Chicken Wrap for lunch and a Bloomin’ Onion, Shrimp on the Barbie and Aussie Chips for dinner, while I listen to the new album from Norah Jones on my iPod,” she said.

Other payment options could soon open up for pensioners.

Negotiations are currently under way between the city and Delta Air Lines to pay pension benefits in SkyMiles. Under the proposed agreement a retiree would get one SkyMile for every $5 in expected cash payments.

For example, someone who would have earned a $40,000 annual pension would receive 8,000 frequent-flier miles. Under that scenario, it would only take a person about three years to earn one free coach ticket.

Contact Robin Roy at [email protected]

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