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Longboat Key Wednesday, May. 8, 2013 4 years ago

Police review FRS pension plan alternative

by: Kurt Schultheis Senior Editor

Town Manager Dave Bullock and town labor attorney Reynolds Allen gave the Longboat Key Police Department Union a third retirement alternative to consider last week in an attempt to end negotiations for a new three-year contract.

The town has already offered the union the Florida Retirement System (FRS) pension plan that the Longboat Key Fire Rescue Union accepted earlier this year. And, April 4, Bullock told the union he was still willing to offer officers a 401(a) retirement plan if officers were interested.

Police officers and union representatives Chris Skinner and Randy Thompson, though, told town staff the union has several officers who have been with the department for less than five years. Those officers won’t be fully vested in their pension plan until the fifth year.

“We want to be 100% vested if we’re being forced out of our plan,” Thompson said. “This is not a voluntary separation on our part — you are the ones freezing our plan.”

Skinner said officers are also seeking wage increases for each of the three years and cost-of-living increases for years two and three of the contract.

“We’re not trying to be greedy,” Skinner said. “We love working for the town, but we’re trying to negotiate here and want something fair.”

Although staff said they weren’t willing to fully vest officers who haven’t been in the plan for five years, they offered another alternative.

Noting the town would pull the FRS option off the table if it goes to impasse with the union, staff presented an FRS alternative that offers cost-of-living increases of 2% in years two and three of the contract and wage increases if other employees receive them. The new FRS option calls for the town to match contributions up to 10%, like the town currently does for police officers in its current pension. If required pension contributions rise to more than 10%, officers would be responsible for funding the additional increases.

“We have pressure to get things done, and I hope you’ll accept one of these options,” Allen said. “We don’t want to go to impasse, but if we do, we’re offering no wage increases, and the only pension option we will present is a defined contribution plan.”

After a brief recess, Police Benevolent Association Attorney Diane Bailey Morton said the union has agreed to take the options to members for consideration.

Bullock is attempting to reach a solution on the police pension issue soon, because if police officers do choose a FRS pension plan option, he wants staff to convert them to the new plan before the Legislature potentially makes changes to the state-run plan.

The town and firefighters already agreed to split required FRS contributions 50/50, with the town’s maximum contribution capped at 13%, according to their agreement. The contract also gave firefighters a 3% wage increase.

Bullock is also working to freeze the general employees pension plan and will offer them an alternative that doesn’t need to be negotiated because the general employees chose not to unionize.

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