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North Miami Beach

North Miami Beach cuts pensions for cops

 

Special to the Miami Herald

The North Miami Beach City Council imposed new contract terms on the city’s police union on Tuesday, after management and labor hit an impasse in negotiations.

Among the conditions imposed in the commission’s unanimous decision:

• Pension benefits for officers would decrease from 3 percent to 2 percent of working salary per year of service. Accumulated vested benefits would not be lost, however. So an officer with 10 years with the city today, who retires 10 years from now, would get 30 percent for the first 10 years plus 20 percent for the second 10 years, for a total retirement benefit equal to 50 percent of working pay.

• The new minimum retirement age for new officers would change from age 52 or 20 years of service to age 62 with 10 years of service or age 55 with 25 years of service.

• New employees will have to start contributing to health insurance premiums. Employees who take the HMO option will pay $25.12 per week for the employee only; $86.96 for a couple and $112.76 for a family plan.

• Wages will be frozen for one year with a “re-opener ” in the second and third year. A re-opener means that management and the union will discuss the matter again in the future.

The deal affects 110 police officers and dispatchers represented by International Union of Police Association Local 6005.

The union’s president, Sgt. Richard Rand, said the deal would make it harder for North Miami Beach to recruit good officers.

“Thank God, the people we have here are professional enough to provide the very best service, but that soon is going to come to an end,” said Rand. “ The city has money. They city is hoarding money but not feeding their employees.”

But Mayor George Vallejo said the city simply can’t afford the generous pension terms offered to current officers. He said that in the last 10 years, the cost of the police pension program climbed from $500,000 to over $6 million per year.

“That’s over a 1,000 percent increase, and going forward for the next several years it was going to increase to $13 million,” he said.

The union contends that change in the retirement benefits are illegal because the city did not procure the approval by at least 60 percent of the active union members when the new amendments were added. Rand said the union is prepared to sue the city if a new contract is not renegotiated.

“We have to accept this and live under the imposed articles, but we go back to the table in two weeks for the new fiscal year, and if they do move to take away our right to vote on our pension, we already have our attorneys lined up to bring legal suits against the city ,” said Rand.

But City Attorney Darcee Siegel said the union’s right to vote on pension changes was created was created by ordinance and could be changed by ordinance.

“That issue has been clearly squared away,” Siegel said.

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