What are the changes in the pension plan to accomplish these savings?
We really need more detail than this article provides.
Disclaimer: I have attended 3 pension board meetings lately as well as the union negotiations meetings so I have a little more insight into this than this article provides, but choose to allow the OP to provide more data.
Well let me say that I listened in by cell phone to the April 21st meeting just like the Foster& Foster rep has attended prior meetings, and have personally attended the Pension Board meetings where the details of the proposed plan changes were discussed and explained at length. There appears to not be a consensus on the actuarial data and "savings projected" as a result of changes made after the actuary had submitted his report.
A friend provided the audio as I could not personally attend.
You can probably better explain the proposal brought forward as a result of the proposed changes, but if you want I will make a stab at it.
The South Walton Professional Fire Fighters have proposed one solution; improvements to their pension plan which they project will save the district $850,000 in 2012. This plan represents a collaborative effort between labor leadership and the pension board. It allows some of the fire district’s senior fire fighters to retire after 20 years of service versus 25 years, required in the current pension plan.
The proposal contains a stop/start provision. If this proposal is adopted, the fire district would not hire replacements for (6) vacated positions, at least temporarily. The current pension plan allows retirement after 25 years of service at 100% of annual base salary.
The proposed plan allows the option of retirement after 20 years at 80% of annual base salary.
The proposal also calls for an additional $600/month stipend upon retirement which is not in the current pension plan.
Pension plan improvements would allow the district to receive more money from a state fund which comes from property insurance premiums. This fund returns a small portion of a levied tax to local governments who have a “local law” pension plan for firefighters. The proposed plan with the stop/start option, or the stop/start option alone without early buyout, qualify as plan improvements.
The pension board has actuarial calculations showing cost savings to the district if this proposal is adopted. Further analyses of projected savings, short and long term, will require an independent actuary study from both a pension and payroll perspective. It is the goal of the district, fire fighters, and taxpayers to ensure the district is aware of all potential costs and that funding for the pension plan is sustainable for the long term.
Fire fighters contribute approximately 7% of salaries to their pension plan with the district (taxpayers) contributing between 23% to 28%. The impact of added years of retirement benefit that will result from a reduction of years of service for retirement should be carefully and thoughtfully analyzed.
The pension plan is reported to be funded at around 63% of the funds necessary to fulfill the plan benefits as currently defined.
Recently there have been many questions about the South Walton Fire District Retirement system and how any changes would save money. Bob Hudson has done a good job of explaining the stop/restart portion of how these changes would work, but there is another factor to this which would be reducing the daily staffing levels. What does this mean as an end user of our service? There will be less ambulances and people to help you if you have an emergency. Last year the same thing was proposed and not one person from the public stood up and said they had any problems with the reduction in service that took place this year. During our current negotiations there seems to be concern from the same people who cut your service and raised your taxes at the same time about doing this again. Let me say as someone who relies on the extra staffing for my personal safety at work I don’t love the idea of any staffing or service cuts. I will say though that given what is going on with the decline in taxable value this seems to be our greatest chance to cut expenses and not send people to the unemployment line to collect your tax money from that angle. From a realistic standpoint with the way prices are going up on everyday things it is not getting any cheaper to provide this vital service to the community, but we are being asked to find a way to do this. We not only look out for the best interest of our members, but by the very nature of our job we look out for you (the taxpayer) everyday. If we truly are a community then I think I speak for all of your uniformed personnel when I say we would appreciate your support to try and keep your protective services at a safe and effective level. If you have any questions feel free to email them to me I will try and provide a satisfactory answer. I would like to thank all those who have helped me be able to work at a rewarding job where I get to help people every day. That is the reason we do the job in the first place. Henry Apfelbach, President South Walton Professional Firefighters Association
I do have a question. Bob Hudson, I was wondering if anyone was going to be at the next Fire Board meeting on June 6th. My executive board will not be able to make it due to a conference. I was wondering if someone would stand up and re-ask the question I had for the board at the last meeting about why they laid off two very senior and very loyal employees whose salaries were budgeted for through the end of the year without giving anyone an explanation. These people are elected to run the district and they answer to you guys at these meetings. I asked the question and was told there was pending legal action (these people were since then officially let go so I’m guessing the legal action is over). I am glad I got that answer by a board member who cares. If it were up to the rest it appears that not answering to the people who elected them is par for the course. Accountability in government is needed at all levels. This is the reason we have the Sunshine Laws in the state of Florida. If you can’t be there I understand I’ll try and get someone else to get an answer. Thanks again for your active concern about what is going on.
I am sure that someone will attend. I am unsure who that will be as the WCTA regularly has been sending representatives to both SWFD Board meetings and Pension Board meetings as observers of the process and to gain understanding of all issues.
I believe that your question has been asked and answered on more than one occasion. If I remember correctly the answer was that a reorganization was taking place to align staffing with revenues. Savings realized this year would be available for offsetting declines in ad valorem taxes. It appears that the SWFD is trying to contain the shortfall without reducing vital services. That is not an easily accomplished task and I am sure that much thought went into the decision made to eliminate those two position.
It may have not been in the meeting you spoke of, but it has been answered on more than one occasion IMO. I will pass the request along to the President of the WCTA.
At the last negotiating session I attended a proposal was presented by Mr. Stange and passed out to your team for consideration and study. No copies were passed out to the general public in attendance and I am hesitant to try to summarize that proposal from memory.
In a spirit of transparency I ask that you post a summary or the actual proposal here for all to read just as FF2 posted the proposal presented by your team previously.
It appeared to be a shared approach to solving the budget shortfall that is projected by the SWFD.