Both houses of the Florida Legislature have approved HB 1333, Pensacola’s fire pension reform bill, sending the measure to Governor Rick Scott for his signature.
The local bill codifies pension reforms announced last year by Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward. As Pensacola’s fire pension plan was established by Special Act, changes to the plan must be approved by the Florida Legislature. The new contract with the firefighters’ union was the third pension reform agreement reached by Mayor Hayward, following agreements with both the general employees’ union and police union in 2012. Collectively, the reforms in all three agreements has allowed Pensacola to cut its annual pension costs by an estimated 12% and has reduced the City’s unfunded pension liability by nearly $20 million.
“Four years ago, I made a promise to citizens that I would take action to get the City’s pension costs under control,” said Mayor Hayward. “With patience, determination, and a lot of teamwork, I believe we have made great progress. I want to thank Representative Clay Ingram for sponsoring this bill, as well as Speaker Crisafulli, Senate President Gardiner, and the members of both the House and Senate for their support.”
The reforms to the firefighters’ pension plan include a cap on the number of overtime hours considered pensionable and changes to the way in which final average earnings are calculated. The agreement also conforms spousal benefits for new hires to those offered by the Florida Retirement System (FRS) and reduces cost of living adjustments for future Deferred Retirement Option Plan (DROP) participants and retirees. In return, firefighters will receive a one-time bonus, with firefighters not enrolled in DROP also receiving wage increases spread out over the three-year term of the contract.
“These reforms would not have been possible without the efforts of our employees and union representatives, who came to the table with spirit of collaboration,” Mayor Hayward said. “Cities across America are struggling with pension issues, but we are working together in Pensacola to find solutions.”
The Florida House moved last Friday to approve the bill, voting 116-1 in favor. The Senate unanimously approved the bill this morning.