Firefighters propose cuts

Discussion in 'Local Government and Groups' started by Bob Wells, Apr 22, 2011.

  1. Henry Apfelbach

    Henry Apfelbach Beach Lover

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    Bob, it is my understanding that a “red herring” is a statement meant as diversion from an article of significance at least that is the way I understand it, but what do I know I’m just a fireman. I think what Diane is saying is that the WCTA cannot fix or try to fix things it does not know exist. She was speaking as a former government employee about her personal experiences. I don’t think anyone of us is on here attacking you or this organization. I have tried to offer you whatever information you need. I have offered you the tapes of the recorded sessions when you were not able to make it, and I know you have other things to do so you had to leave early yesterday and I wasn’t sure if you were able to get a copy of the proposal the firefighters gave to management and I am offering it to you or anyone of the WCTA who requests it.
    I know the WCTA tries to get as much information as possible and that is fine. I want them to have the most accurate information. Mrs. Mcquistin asked me if we were adversaries and I find that to be an interesting question. Many people think that because we are a union we are out to take advantage of the taxpayers. I find that not only to be untrue, but offensive. We spend our entire careers protecting people and we find it frustrating that people think we are enemies because of our participation in a union. Using that logic you guys would be bad guys since the WCTA is a union. At the root of it the Tea Party is a union. They are a group of like minded individuals joined together to attain a common goal. That is exactly what our union does. Our union also does many other things in this community to help out and you don’t hear us running to the newspaper every time looking for credit (just ask Diane about how we help with the angle tree event every year). We are a civic minded group of guys.
    You guys spend countless hours going over information; in addition to going over as much info as we can we spend a lot of time trying to help those who can’t help themselves both at work and when we are out there collecting for MDA or around the holiday time. Bob, you stated earlier that you wanted to give your point of view or to offer up possible solutions well here we are I am reading every day and I will listen to what you have to say.
     
  2. Henry Apfelbach

    Henry Apfelbach Beach Lover

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    Andy A, Sean Hughes has earned a pension with the SWFD. That being said with the way our plan is set up he will not be able to collect his earned benifits untill he reaches the age 55. I believe he can collect early benifits at the age of 50 but would take a penalty.

    Diane did point out that at the Feb. Fire Board meeting the board was given a list of cost saving measures by the fire chief. It is up to the board to direct the chief to act on those measures and layoffs were not on that list. I represent the members of the bargining unit at the Fire District and while I don't represent Sean Hughes Or Diane Brown I worked with them for the 11.5 years that I have worked there and I find it sad that this is the only thing we could do to save next years budget. I hope that answers your question.
     
    Last edited: May 21, 2011
  3. 30ashopper

    30ashopper SoWal Insider

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    Can you please just post it here for everyone to see?
     
  4. 30ashopper

    30ashopper SoWal Insider

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    AFAICT from the pension agreement, there isn't any special treatment given to firefighters who go to full retirement. They accumulate pension benefits based on longevity of service with their final benefit being based on the salary they were making when they retire. (Longer service equals a higher pension benefits.) The person who was laid off will collect the benefits he has accrued, and also has the opportunity to be rehired if an opening becomes available. (I'm sure Mr. Apfelbach can correct me if I'm wrong on any of this.)
     
  5. Henry Apfelbach

    Henry Apfelbach Beach Lover

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    30a shopper, I believe the file is too big to post as it is 4 different spread sheets. If I know who you are you are more than welcome to get a copy from me. Also, SWFD has a copy and it's now a public record. There are somethings on there that would not make sense and would need to be explained.

    I'm not sure what you were trying to say with regards to special treatment and full retirement, but 21yrs is not full retirement in our plan. Sean would have had to work 25yrs to get full retirement. He is not currently able to collect those benifits due to age. That is what we were trying to point out. Sean spent pretty much his entire working career with the SWFD and was just shown to the curb. If he had done something wrong then I would understand, but it was explained by the chief as a pure budget reduction issue. In our retirement plan you have to work 10yrs to be vested. After that date you have earned some type of pension through the plan. Your compensation is based on the average of the highest 5 years of your last 10 employed, this excludes overtime and is just based on base salary. In Sean's case it would not have mattered anyway he was overtime exempt due to position. You are correct about benefits being tied to years of service. You get 4% per year worked up to 25yrs. Now, I am not on the pension board but I am a pensioneer so I am not an expert in all areas of our pension. It seems I learn new things every day about this system.
     
  6. Bob Hudson

    Bob Hudson Beach Fanatic

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    Quote from Diane's Post: "You would think that the Walton County Taxpayer's Association would have an interest in cost saving measures that are not taking place and other expenditures of the District".

    Diane the quote above is what you wrote and what I responded to.

    In my opinion that is a "red herring" as it infers that the organization does not have valid concerns on all of the items that are a part of the budget and how it is being spent nor do they have all of the data. It also deflects the reader from one thread topic as it challenges the motives and intent of the organization - that it has no interest in other cost saving ideas or measures.

    You actually have no idea what data the WCTA has in it's possession or where it came from.

    Quote from Henry's Post: "I wasn’t sure if you were able to get a copy of the proposal the firefighters gave to management and I am offering it to you or anyone of the WCTA who requests it."

    Thanks - I have a copy - I also see that 30Ashopper has made the request for you to post the document.

    Henry's Post Quote: Bob, you stated earlier that you wanted to give your point of view or to offer up possible solutions well here we are I am reading every day and I will listen to what you have to say.

    My statement did not infer that I was desirous of posting "my personal" viewpoint or that I even have a personal viewpoint or plan.

    My intent with the statement was that other ways of accomplishing the goal had been offered and were not being posted or discussed.

    At this time I have no point of view or position. I am still in the data gathering stage.

    I tend to make sure that I have all of the facts available before forming a opinion or a particular position.

    I do not feel that I have all of the data available at this time as numbers from both parties continue to change and evolve. Once there is consensus on the data, I will be more than happy to give you my take on what I view as a reasonable way forward that benefits all, not any one group over the other.

    That may be the "numbers guy" persona that Diane credits all "numbers guy's" with based on her experiences, but it is a reasonable way to address complex problems.

    Once again these are my thoughts and viewpoints and have no connection with the WCTA.

    The WCTA speaks for itself.

    I know that I am vitally interested in public safety and consider the services and programs that the SWFD provides is one of the primary functions of government.

    When I need your services I ,want and expect that service to be there and delivered in the fastest, most cost efficient manner possible. That does not mean SWFD has a blank check.

    I fully support your right to collectively bargain and have never questioned or commented in anyway that you didn't or that their was an adversarial relationship. Some seem to interchange my positions with those of the WCTA at will.
     
    Last edited: May 21, 2011
  7. Diane

    Diane Beach Comber

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    Bob,

    I believe Henry explained it well in his earlier post about exactly what I meant. I can't keep explaining it, it is what it is. I have been contacted by many friends, acquaintances, and people I just happen to run into who are reading this post and they totally understand what I am saying. If you want to turn it into an "attack" on my part, then that is your right and your opinion. I'm not going to address the "red herring" thing, it's ridiculous. You are making it sound like I am in the CIA or something for goodness sake.

    You're right, I don't know what data the WCTA is in possession of or where it came from. I know they don't have any information from me, a taxpayer, who does have information that I may or may not want to share at this time.

    No, I don't place all "numbers guys or girls" in one category; I even have friends who are numbers people. But I will say you are kind of proving me right on that one.

    I'm off to enjoy a wonderful dinner in South Walton - have a great weekend!
     
  8. Henry Apfelbach

    Henry Apfelbach Beach Lover

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    I understand all of that Bob.When it comes to wether are our organizations always opposed I was relaying a story about the union's relationship with the South Walton community and how I was kind of caught off gaurd when asked that question. In the community(Santa Rosa County) where I live I help provide fire service for the lowest possible cost because I have a sense of civic duty. That being said I feel like our community lost two very loyal and civic minded individuals and I agree with your assessment that this is unfortunate. I also believe that it could have been avoided. I think when read out of it's full context Diane's quote sounds worse. I fully believe that she was not taking a shot at the WCTA. I think she is talking about the fact that to this date no one from the WCTA has asked the question about why the layoffs and not the other things on the list that was previously mentioned. I also realize that SWFD is one of many organizations that WCTA tracks, so I think Diane is just making sure you have the info. Having said all that, this is just my opinion on what Diane was talking about. For all I know she could soon be a member of the WCTA. Once again I will offer that if you have any questions about how the staffing levels on the proposal you have work feel free to contact me.
     
    Last edited: May 21, 2011
  9. Diane

    Diane Beach Comber

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    Henry,

    Thank you for explaining exactly what I meant. I'm glad you understood. I agree with your definition of a red herring also. Glad we are on the same wave length!

    The Union did an awesome job this past year in helping with the Angel Tree; a charity that is very near and dear to my heart. We worked together to help children in the community and there is nothing better than that! It will be a part of my life at the Fire District that I will never forget.

    Have a great weekend and be safe!

    Diane
     
  10. Bob Hudson

    Bob Hudson Beach Fanatic

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    Diane

    You have repeatedly stated that you have information concerning "cost savings" that could be utilized to avert a budget shortfall somewhere between 2.5 and 2.8 million dollars and would have averted two layoffs as well.

    Please share them here for all to see - I know that I would like to review them. If they have been printed, published or detailed somewhere I apologize, but I missed them. Remember that there are no do overs, no mulligans and you can't un-ring the bell.

    If mistakes have been made we can only learn from them and hold those that made them accountable.

    Just tell it like it is, be honest. Truth is a perfect defense in court.

    Have a nice evening !

    :popcorn:
     
    Last edited: May 21, 2011
  11. 30ashopper

    30ashopper SoWal Insider

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    My point was that "full retirement" just means you get 100% of your last paycheck for the rest of your life. If the person laid off worked 21years, he'll receive 84%. He won't be living on the streets. ;-) It's unfortunate they couldn't have kept him on, the experience is obviously valuable. But as Bob has pointed out when the money isn't available it isn't available and so some hard decisions need to be made.

    This illustrates one of the many flaws I see in these types of retirement systems - it is more cost effective to cut senior professionals. If we moved to a 401K style system the cost to the city to keep senior leadership would be substantially less so the district likely wouldn't let good folks go in times like these.
     
  12. Henry Apfelbach

    Henry Apfelbach Beach Lover

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    That is not true. The District’s payment into the plan this year was 1.5 million, and next year it will be 1.3 million. The budget shortfall is projected to be 2.6 million and they saved a grand total of 200k letting go two senior people. Even if there were no retirement payments they would still have had to come up with a million. It is baseless statements like yours that make our pension plan seem like it’s bankrupting the government. You have to remember it takes both sides to agree to something for it to happen. It’s not like we held a gun to their head and demanded this pension plan. Also, as our investments do better the cheaper the plan gets for the district. That is not true for the percentage I pay, which will stay the same. It sounds to me like you’re the victim of a faulty syllogism; all defined benefit pensions are unsustainable, South Walton Fire District has a defined benefit pension system: therefore the SWFD defined benefit pension system is unsustainable.
    It is stuff like this that is making what once was the most rewarding job in the world seem a lot less rewarding. I work with some of the bravest men and women and statements like that blaming budget woes on us is driving us away.
    Also, Sean won't be collecting that 84% until he turns 55. He started young so I believe he has a few years before he reaches that age. We did let him go with nothing to show for it right now.
    My earlier point was SWFD did this while we are in the process of looking into a "early out option" for some of our most senior guys and Sean would have been part of that package. So you be the judge, is that right or wrong? I understand that we need to make cuts to streamline the operation but if you could let this very senior loyal guy go with something rather than nothing what would be the harm in letting him stay employed until you figure out if the "early out" was a viable option.
     
  13. TheZohan

    TheZohan Beach Lover

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    why less ambulances
     
  14. Bob Hudson

    Bob Hudson Beach Fanatic

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    He is 46 years old. His life expectancy is an additional 32.45 years and his probability of dying in the next year is 0.002375% All in the actuarial study data.

    He is fully vested in the plan so he is hardly walking away with nothing.

    It was posted that the two terminated employee's received in excess of 100,000 (not each but collectively) in accrued but unused annual leave and sick leave. Those payments would have come from the reserves the board has accumulated to pay those liabilities-not from operating cash or operating reserves.
     
    Last edited: May 21, 2011
  15. Henry Apfelbach

    Henry Apfelbach Beach Lover

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    So, what does he do for the next 9 years? Not a whole lot of options in the job market these days. It's like I stated he has earned a pension when he reaches the age of 55, or 50 with a 3% per year penalty. So for "right now" he has nothing for monthly income. I am also pretty sure the lions share of that 115,000 payout was to cover Sean's unused PTO and comp time. He has that for now. I guess the question is if he had that much unused PTO why not let him stay on paid leave and see what happens with the pension plan. Bob, from our conversation in the past I got the feeling your about being fair.

    Also, does this mean that what Brian told me at the meeting the other day about life expectancy was wrong? I also love how they know through math what our chances of dying are.
     
  16. Henry Apfelbach

    Henry Apfelbach Beach Lover

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    Zohan, I hope we can keep the level of service the same. That being said, last year during the budget workshops when the reduction in service was discussed not one citizen stood up to speak against the reduction of service. Just to give you some history from 2001-2008 we operated with 3 ALS ambulances. During that time the call volume has not seen any big changes. So, could we go back to working with 3 ambulances? Probably. Is that the best level of service? No. Not having that extra ambulance changes the ammount of work the rest of us have to do and it changes levels of efficency while working at emergency scenes. I think the citizens of South Walton will have a say if they want. Just remember it costs money to run more people and trucks.
     
  17. 30ashopper

    30ashopper SoWal Insider

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    I didn't say the system was bankrupting government, I said I felt retirement systems like these have a lot of serious flaws. In the case of SWFD's pension system, the fund is "officially" underfunded to the tune of 37%. According to commentary by some of the folks who have seen the actuary report, that number is based on unrealistic growth calculations. So we can assume the real value is higher. You claim the system works, but the system is currently missing nearly half the funds it needs to provide all the benefits it has promised. That's not the result of a well designed system, those are typical results for systems that are designed and managed poorly.

    If you would like to have a general discussion about the merits of defined benefit pensions, let's have it. Maybe though we should take it to another thread.

    I didn't specifically blame anyone. When defined benefit pension systems fail the blame can usually be spread around to all those involved as well as to the design of the system in question. The blame also tends to fall on the heads of people who are no longer involved in the management of the system because the lure of "kicking the can down the road" is usually pretty strong. I don't know the specifics of our current funding deficit problems for this particular pension system, so I really can't make comments that go beyond generalizations.

    The SWFD fund is underfunded - ipso facto unsustainable in it's current state.

    No one has blamed our current budget woes on SWFD firemen in this thread. I'd ask that you please avoid placing them on a cross and holding them up to use as a shield against criticism. This is a discussion about budget shortfalls, the monetary shortfall of the current pension system fund, and the reasoning behind letting two senior people go to balance a yearly budget.

    An unfortunate side effect of how defined benefit pension systems work.

    I can't speak to Sean's situation, I wasn't involved in the decision process on that. But I think my point about senior leadership being "expensive" making them attractive targets for budget cutters is valid.
     
    Last edited: May 22, 2011
  18. 30ashopper

    30ashopper SoWal Insider

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    :roll: I won't receive social security or medicare or be able to pull from my 401K until I hit 65. I've been laid off before too. Such is life. This is the way retirement systems work.
     
  19. beachFool

    beachFool Beach Fanatic

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    >>>I won't receive social security or medicare or be able to pull from my 401K until I hit 65. I've been laid off before too<<<

    You can make penalty-free withdrawals from a 401K before age 65. The plan document may require you no longer work for the employer

    Social Security benefits are available at age 62, however there limits on earned income.

    I don't know how old you are but your Social Security Normal Retirement Age is probably 66, not 65.

    Medicare benefits are available at age 65. Nice to see you got the socialized medical care number right. :floor:

    Congratulations
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 22, 2011
  20. 30ashopper

    30ashopper SoWal Insider

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    Thanks for contributing so much to the discussion Buzz.
     

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