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Longboat Key Wednesday, Jul. 24, 2013 4 years ago

Town declares impasse with police union

by: Kurt Schultheis Senior Editor

The Longboat Key Police Union has a decision to make this week.

The town declared impasse with the police union July 19, although both parties may still reach an agreement this week.

The union is attempting to hold a vote to decide which of three retirement options that the town has offered is most acceptable.

The town will leave all three options on the table even though it declared impasse. The union has until Thursday to make a final decision. If the union does not select an option this week, the impasse process will begin.

The 11 members of the union are wrestling with choosing one of three retirement options that Town Manager Dave Bullock has offered.

Whatever the union chooses is a change from the current retirement option, in which officers put 10% of their paychecks into a pension plan the town is set on closing before Oct. 1.

Bullock is offering the union two different pension options with the Florida Retirement System (FRS).

Longboat Key firefighter/paramedics took a similar FRS 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 to take an FRS option that would take more money out of their paychecks after the town’s cap is reached and officers must pay for costs above that cap.

That leaves another option that might be more appealing for officers.

Since the start of negotiations in March, Bullock has offered a 401(a) retirement plan option that includes a 3% pay increase and gives officers another 7% increase in take-home pay.

That’s because police officers currently invest 10% of their pay in an underfunded pension plan the town wants to freeze.

The employee who elects to make a voluntary 3% contribution, which the town will match, will still have 7% more take-home money that the employee can utilize for other purposes, including additional voluntary contributions to the defined contribution plan.

As part of the proposal, the town will make a 10% contribution for employees even if an employee chooses to put aside none of his salary to the plan. If an employee, though, invests a 3% contribution, the town will match that 3%, giving an employee a combined 16% total contribution to the plan.

And if an employee elected to make a 3% contribution to be matched by the town and utilized the additional 7% for an additional unmatched contribution to the plan, then the total percentage toward retirement, including Social Security, would be 35.4%.

The offer also comes with 2% wage increases in years two and three of the contract.

With the Longboat Key Town Commission’s direction, Bullock intends to finalize a contract and freeze the police pension plan by Oct. 1, with the town’s other two pension plans.

If the union doesn’t accept an offer by its deadline, the town is prepared to offer officers only a one-year contract with only a 401(a) option for a retirement plan during the impasse proceedings.

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