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CITY OF FORT LAUDERDALE
POLICE AND FIREFIGHTERS’
FLORIDA PENSION NEWS STORIES ON POLICE AND FIREFIGHTERS
Prepared by Fred Nesbitt, Director of Public Information firstname.lastname@example.org January 31, 2010
Jacksonville to fire union: Take pension deal or it’ll get worse
By Matt Galnor, Jacksonville Democrat, Jan 20, 2010
If Jacksonville’s public safety unions don’t move quickly to accept a pension reform proposal that applies
only to new employees, the city will take steps to cut retirement benefits for current workers, too. The
sides haven’t discussed pension costs in great deal. Firefighters on Tuesday proposed a 3 percent pay
increase — far off the 3 percent cut the city offered during the first bargaining session last fall. The fire
and police unions have refused to negotiate pension changes, citing a city settlement the unions say
require those changes to be addressed by the Police and Fire Pension Fund. The proposal now on the table
would: Increase minimum retirement requirements from 20 years of service at any age to 25 years of
service and a minimum age requirement of 52; Eliminate the guaranteed 8.4 percent return on deferred
retirement accounts; Increase the employee pension contribution from 7 percent of pay to 8 percent. The
proposed pension changes would save the city $1.27 billion over 35 years, according to the city.
Manhattan housing project that sank Florida's $250 million pension investment now
Tampa Bay.com (blog), Jan 26, 2010
The fate of the humongous Manhattan housing project that Florida's state pension fund invested in -- and
has since written off all $250 million of its stake and $16 million in fees -- is once again in flux. The
bottom line? The $250 million investments of pension funds, plus $16 million in fees on the deal, are most
likely gone forever.
Jury Finds Vivendi Misled Investors
By Natasha Gural,.Forbes.com. Jan 29, 2010
Vivendi SA, the Paris-based owner of the world’s largest music company, misled investors about its
financial condition before a $46 billion merger nearly a decade ago, a U.S. jury ruled on Friday. The lead
plaintiffs in the case were the Retirement System for the General Employees of the City of Miami Beach
and several individuals. Pension funds are usually the lead plaintiffs in such cases as the law requires a
large institutional litigant if available. Florida recently moved to discourage lawyers from prodding
pension funds into action by capping the fees that they'll pay at $50 million.
Florida investment panel OKs cap on legal fees
Business Week, Jan 26, 2010
The Florida panel that invests state money including pension funds has approved a $50 million per case
cap on legal fees paid to outside lawyers. The three-member State Board of Administration on Tuesday
unanimously adopted the limit proposed by one of its members, Attorney General Bill McCollum. The
new rule also combines the cap with a proposal by Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink to make fees a factor
in selecting law firms, which will inject competition into that process.
Florida's expected budget shortfall grows to $3 billion in 2010-2011
By DARA KAM , Palm Beach Post, Jan 19, 2010
Plummeting property values, rising numbers of poor people needing health care and a decline in the value
of the state's pension fund are among the budget woes lawmakers are grappling with as they prepare to
craft this year's spending plan.
Failed real estate deal costs Florida pension fund $266 million
By Brandon Larrabee, The Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville, Jan 28, 2010
A multibillion-dollar Manhattan development formally unwound this week after costing the state's pension
system $266 million and fueling a debate over oversight of the $113 billion fund. "This should have no
bearing on us one way or the other," said Dennis MacKee, a spokesman for the State Board of
Administration, which oversees the retirement fund. "Right now, it looks like what we have on the books
is what it's likely to end up as." What the board has on the books is $0, after essentially conceding that
the entire investment is gone.
Pension process, mayoral veto power discussed
By Joe Wilhelm Jr., Jacksonville Daily Record, Jan 31, 2010
The Charter Review Commission discussed amending the Charter relating to retirement and pension
benefits. Commission Vice Chair Mary O’Brien proposed an amendment that would require a thorough
financial analysis of any addition or subtraction of retirement or pension plan benefits. Jacksonville Police
and Fire Pension Fund Executive Director/Administrator John Keane explained that the analysis O’Brien
was suggesting was already being done by the State of Florida. O’Brien countered by explaining the State
has its own Ethics Code, but the City has its own Ethics Code and that requiring the analysis of the
benefits would support the state’s efforts. The Commission voted 12-1 in favor of the motion.
Want City Property? Just Wait
By Janie Campbell, NBCMiami.com, Jan 31, 2010
A projected $45 million dollar budget shortfall -- made just months into the new fiscal year -- has City of
Miami officials in what commission chairman Marc Sarnoff called "crisis mode." Ballooning pension
obligations, plummeting property tax collections, and rising costs may force the city to plunder its already
vulnerable reserves and sell off assets to balance its books.
Finance OKs Pension Fund investment changes
By Mike Sharkey, Jacksonville Daily Record, Jan 31, 2010
Police and Fire Pension Fund Executive Director/Administrator John Keane is one step closer to being
able to invest his contributors’ money in the same manner as the City’s general employees’ pension plans
as well as state pension plans. Tuesday, the City Council Finance Committee approved legislation that
will allow Keane to use the Fund’s money in a wider range of investments. Currently, Keane is able to
invest 35 percent in domestic equities, 20 percent in international equities, 25 percent in fixed income and
20 percent in real estate. He said the new percentage won’t be determined until the legislation passes.
“This will put us on the same footing as the State,” said Finance Chair Stephen Joost.
Cocoa wrestles with pension funding
By Keyonna Summers, Florida Today, Jan 27, 2010
The Cocoa City Council wants hard numbers and discussion with firefighters and police before deciding
on a plan to reduce taxpayers' responsibility for $13.5 million owed to the departments in pension costs.
Instead of taking a vote on the issue during a special meeting, council members called for negotiations
with police and fire union and pension board members. They also requested information on how other
cities across the state are balancing escalating pension costs with other expenses.
Jacksonville will follow its own charter, brings city workers into pension plan
By Matt Galnor, Jacksonville Democrat, Jan 22, 2010
This week, Jacksonville City Hall is starting to follow its own law for employee retirement benefits — and
it will cost taxpayers nearly $3 million a year. Beginning this pay cycle, the city will put all civil service
employees in the pension plan, rather than filtering some into the less lucrative Social Security system.
The moves comes a month after a group of employees – now close to 100 – filed a lawsuit seeking rights
to the pension after the city said they weren’t eligible because they didn’t pass a physical examination.
Change Of Plans: Consolidated Government Will Pay For City Pensions
North Escambia.com, Jan 14, 2010
Language slipped in the consolidated government proposal at the last minute would make every resident
of Escambia County responsible for funding the City of Pensacola’s problematic pension plan.
Consolidation supports had preached multiple times that county residents would not be saddled with
Pensacola’s unfunded pension debt — currently over $75 million.
Miami leaders fear a financial meltdown
By Charles Rabin and Michael Sallah, Palm Beach Post, Jan 31, 2010
Facing a widening financial crisis, Miami leaders are already projecting a $45 million budget shortfall this
year that could force the city to deplete its reserves and sell key assets to stay afloat. Rising costs,
slumping property tax collections and ever-growing pension obligations are feeding a meltdown that's
now forcing administrators to look for drastic new sources of income not needed since the state took over
Miami's books 14 years ago.
Cocoa eyes pension expenses tonight
By Keyonna Summers, Florida Today, January 26, 2010
Cocoa City Council members tonight will hold a special meeting to discuss ways to reduce the cost of
police and fire pension plans to taxpayers. Any shortfalls in what the pensions promise to pay and the
amount of money set aside has to come from a city's general fund. Under current pension benefits for 66
police officers and 35 firefighters, officials said employees contribute 6.5 percent of their pay toward the
plans. The city contributes 58.8 percent, or almost 60 cents of every dollar, to the fire pension plan and
22.3 percent to the police pension plan, according to an administrative services report. The rest comes
from the state, earnings, interest and premium taxes. As of Oct. 1, taxpayers were estimated responsible
for a $13.5 million difference in what the pensions promise to pay and the amount of money set aside.
Among the cost-saving measures the council will consider are making employees pay more into the plans,
decreasing benefits that aren't required by the state or switching to the Florida Retirement System.
According to the Florida League of Cities, pension laws and other measures that have increased benefits
for police and firefighters over the past decade have cost taxpayers across the state $345 million –
spending that could lead to increased property taxes, crime rates and other "fiscal crises" in some cities.
Guest commentary: Taxes and escalating pension costs
Carl W. Suarez, Naples Daily News, Jan 17, 2010
You may have read my commentary last fall on how the Collier County property appraiser has been
enabling the collection of extra taxes through over-assessments — particularly at the lower end of the
market. Well, where exactly is all that extra tax money going? Escalating pension costs are one major
culprit. The city many years ago could have chosen to go with the standard Florida state retirement plan
(FRS) and did not do so. The current pension costs from published budgets as a percentage of overall city
payroll from 2005 to 2009 have escalated 128 percent (yes, that’s right; not a typo) from 8 percent to
approximately 18 percent of overall payroll. City firefighters vest 4 percent per year and police 3.67
percent. Just do the simple math: That means an 18-year-old new-hire firefighter can work 25 years, retire
at the ripe old age of 43 and receive the average of his top three years’ pay at the top end of the payroll
spectrum, inflation-adjusted for possibly 40 to 50 years or more.
Firefighters blast city as contract is ratified
By Andrew Abramson, Palm Beach Post, Jan 11, 2010
As the city cut around $20 million from its budget this year, the fire department took by far the largest cut
with a 14 percent decrease to its budget, or about a $2 million cut. Tom Wesolek, the union treasurer and
incoming president, said this in front of the city commission: “The list of proposals (from the city)
should make each of you blush with embarrassment - closing the firefighters pension plan, bankrupting
the health insurance plan, altering the work schedule to such that combined with the cuts in city wages,
some firefighters would have suffered a 40 percent reduction in pay. It was no way to begin negotiations
in an environment where more than ever before the union and city needed to work together.
Bill Cotterell: FDLE shows the way to savings
By Bill Cotterell, Tallahassee Democrat, Feb 1, 2010
Increase the period for vesting in the Florida Retirement System from six years to 10. Don't let everybody
join the Deferred Retirement Option Plan. Letting department heads approve DROP applications would
mean they could tell some senior employees to just go ahead and retire, replacing them (or not) with
lower-paid workers. Those in critical positions could be approved for DROP, which allows their pensions
to be banked for up to five years while they continue working. But you run into favoritism and
discrimination with that option. Offer buyouts to employees nearing retirement or running out the DROP
clock. This would be a better deal for the state than having to lay off newer employees, many of whom
have had some extensive training at the taxpayers' expense.