PENSION CONTROVERSY - Mitch Perry

03/30/04

Eight days ago, Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio traveled to Tallahassee to persuade State Lawmakers to approve a proposal that would increase pension benefits for the City's

Police and Firefighters - an issue that is tearing up relations between current and former Police and Firemen..

That organized opposition has gotten the ear of Hillsborough State Legislators who must sign off on the plan....Last week, 2 days after Mayor Iorio addressed State Senator Victor Crist - the Tampa Legislator wrote her back , saying a Staff Analysis showed that those benefit changes could amount to 40% of the City's payroll, and balloon into a $200 million dollar 'unfunded liability' over the next 30 years.

Specifically, the Proposal would give future retirees a yearly multiplier of 3.15 percent, or 63 percent of their salary after 20 years. Currently they get 50 percent after 20 years, a multiplier of 2.5 percent. The change would apply to those who retired after October 1st of 2003.Officers and firefighters now put 12% of their pay towards the pension. They would pay 17% if the bill passes.

Marc Hamlin is a Lieutenant with the Tampa Police Department, and is the Chairman of the Tampa Fire and Police Pension Board. He said he was surprised when Senator Crist questioned the proposal, worked out between Mayor Iorio and the police union

He said the pension pays out $37- million a year in benefits to about 1,500 retirees.

(roll tape#1 o.q."140 something million dollars")

But former Tampa Police and Firefighters, are adamantly against the proposal.

Not only does the plan cut them off - but they're also concerned about nearly $210 million dollars earmarked for Cost of Living increases for the pension plan that somehow disappeared for the fiscal years of 2001 and 2002.......They've been working on trying to restore that money, and see this new plan as thwarting that from happening..

William Horne is a former Tampa Police Officer who retired back in 1992. He says that one reason that it's fair that retirees get back that missing 209 plus million dollars, is that former police and firemen went without a cost-of-living increase in their pension from 1968 to 1980...

He also says there's recent precedent for to look askance at this new plan....He says that back in October 2001, the unions and the City had come to an agreement that would have given current members of the force a multiplier of 3.5 percent...But that plan never happened (roll tape#2 o.q.can afford it")

The pension for Tampa Fire fighters and Police are broken up into 3 funds: A Base Fund, an allocated COLA Fund, and un allocated COLA Fund...It is the contention of some retirees that monies from the unallocated COLA Fund - nearly $210 million -has been misappropriated.

Nobody disputes that The pension for Tampa Fire Fighters and Police lost money in 2001 and 2002 , when the stock market went seriously south .....Again, former officer William Horne

(roll tape#3 o.q." low rate")

Chairman of the Tampa Fire and Police Pension Board, Lieutenant Marc Hamlin is extremely intolerate of the retirees charges, saying they're virtually slanderous (roll tape#4 o.q. that's unbelievable)

And Hamlin says about $10,000 dollars is being spent on a study to determine the fiscal soundness of the plan, but he says it won't matter to the retirees Brother hood of firefighters")

Any changes made to Tampa Police and Firefighters must be approved by the Legislature.....And therefore, this active group of former Retirees has been providing information to the Hillsborough Delegation in the Legislature - letting them know their concern about this new increase - and how they fear it could bankrupt the pension plan over all....Former Tampa Policeman William Horne and his allies make no secret of their efforts to lobby state lawmakers...He says they spent 2 weeks in Tallahassee recently getting their message out....And it obviously worked...Horne describes what happened when Mayor Iorio went before Senator Crist last week(roll tape#5 o.q. " without that pension fund")

Despite several attempts , State Senator Victor Crist did NOT return WMNF phone calls for comment....Nor did Tampa Finance Director Bonnie Wise..

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