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Pension issues, utility rates among Council agenda items

By Staff | Sep 5, 2013

After taking Labor Day off, the city council will have numerous items to consider when it convenes for its regular meeting Monday at City Hall.

Among the items on the agenda are a plethora of pension issues for police, fire and general workers, the issuance of refunds to residents for past sewer and water works done by the city, the establishment of rates for water, sewer and wastewater, and a consideration of forfeiture of charter school governing board positions.

One of the most controversial measures will be the proposed amending of the police retirement plan to provide an opt-out option for the police chief as part of an ordinance to revise rules of the pension process.

Police Chief Jay Murphy tendered his resignation last month after 35 years on the force.

His successor would likely come from outside the area, and the option would help attract candidates, since many of them have many years of service and likely would not be chief for the 10 years needed to qualify for a pension, which the new standards would specify.

The question becomes why make the police chief pay for a pension he/she likely would not benefit from?

The ordinance would also revise the normal retirement date and cost of living adjustment (3 percent), and to provide a maximum pension benefit ($7,916.67 per month), and to revise the vesting schedule for members hired on or after Oct. 1.

Mayor John Sullivan has taken a wait-and-see approach to hear what other council members think.

Councilmember Lenny Nesta said he would back the motion, even if it does need tweaking.

“It should include the fire chief. Most chiefs who don’t come internally, come from other departments with years of experience and pensions,” Nesta said. “Why put into a pension they won’t be here for?”

The city will also look at a reduction of 3 percent in the irrigation, water and sewer rates for FY 2014. Burton & Associates said in its analysis that with the Southwest 6&7 and North 1&2 utilities expansion projects going as projected, rates will not increase through FY 2017.

The city council will also consider an ordinance authorizing a water and sewer refund of up to $11.5 million for outstanding water and sewer bonds.

It will also consider the forfeiture of two charter school governing board positions in the wake of a new state statute that forbids board members married to anyone on staff.

Sullivan believes the two board members, Daryl Teblum and Jason Pawlowski, should step down, or at least agree to an indefinite suspension, for the sake of the system.

One of the appointments is a council appointment (Teblum), the other, a non-voting parent member whose term runs out this month (Pawlowski).

Sullivan said both should step down, even if one’s term is due to end in a matter of weeks.

“If we let these two stay on the board, we could be in violation of the Florida State Statutes. If these two folks care about the system, they would step away,” Sullivan said. “You don’t want to hurt a successful system because someone got stubborn.”

Councilmember Kevin McGrail said he believes the legislature should look at the law and its affect on municipal schools with volunteer boards.

“They passed a law to stop excesses in private schools and they cast the net and got the wrong fish,” McGrail said. “They got the volunteers who are tied to the charter schools.”

The state doesn’t make provisions for city-run charter schools and for-profit schools, which is a sticking point for both the mayor and McGrail who serves as a liaison for the charter school board.

“The law came about where a board member from a for-profit school voted a golden parachute for one of their employees in a six-figure payout,” McGrail said. “The legislature closed the loophole. However, the major players is municipal schools.”