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Ordinance to limit police, fire OT for pension computations is on table

By Staff | Sep 22, 2012

What has been one of the sticking points for the Cape Coral budget will again be front and center when the city council holds its workshop meeting Monday at city hall.

The council is scheduled to discuss two ordinances pertaining to the city’s pension funds for fire and police. And although it won’t have much immediate impact, it could help provide some relief in coming years for what has become a white elephant to Cape Coral’s budget.

The ordinances will implement changes in relation to the amount of overtime and leave that can be counted as wages for the purpose of pension calculations, pursuant to state statutes.

The statute limits the amount of overtime compensation to 300 hours per year and doesn’t allow any unused leave time for pension purposes for fire and police personnel.

The statute, which was passed and put into effect July 1, 2011, requires implementation after the signing of the first collective bargaining agreement, which Cape Coral ratified for fire and police on Feb. 6.

According to city spokesperson Connie Barron, the statute, which the city must follow, was implemented so that fire and police personnel close to retirement can’t load up on leave and overtime to bump up their pension.

“There will be a savings because right now there is no cap on overtime,” Barron said. “We’re implementing it because it is a state law.”

Anything involving pensions is a very hot topic in Cape Coral. Something that could help mitigate the city’s obligations has some strong proponents.

“It’s one straw of hay in the haystack of the pension problem,” said Councilmember Chris Chulakes-Leetz. “It’s a miniscule step. Anything would help, and that’s not a bad thing.”

The problem is that the ordinance isn’t going to help right away. It only takes effect on those currently employed.

Also, Chulakes-Leetz said, there are still ways to circumvent the law.

“They don’t worry about overtime, they’ll just promote someone,” Leetz said. “They’ll get a raise, and it will get computed into their final years of salary. There are too many ways to get around that.”

Chulakes-Leetz, along with Mayor John Sullivan, contend that if the city doesn’t address its pension situation, it ultimately will bankrupt the city.

Also scheduled is a proposed strategic plan and audit plan for 2013 to be presented by Margaret Krym, city auditor.

Krym also will present the tentative plan for fiscal years 2014 and 2015. The audit plan reflects the concepts of the Strategic Plan.

Also on the agenda is an appeal of the Planning and Zoning Commission approval of Burnt Store Centre. It approved the expansion of a special exception for a car wash, the approval of a permit for the installation and operation of a cell phone tower, and amended site plan approval.

It did not, however, approve a special exception for a automotive use, or a deviation of two feet in height to allow an eight-foot wall.

Approval would reverse the previous decision of the Board of Zoning Adjustment and Appeals, thereby approving all sections of the PDP amendment.