Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Officers Concerned about Pension Changes Signing Up Early; the Fund Reorganization Has Spurred More Police, Firefighters to Join

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Officers Concerned about Pension Changes Signing Up Early; the Fund Reorganization Has Spurred More Police, Firefighters to Join

Article excerpt

Byline: Dana Treen

Police officers and firefighters in Jacksonville are increasingly choosing to end their careers early, led at least in part by uncertainty over pensions, an analysis of enrollment in the city's retirement program for those agencies shows.

The Jacksonville Police and Fire Pension Fund, criticized for how it was managed and forced to reorganize to make it more fiscally sound, is the retirement program for the city's police and firefighters, and includes a deferred retirement program for those who reach 20 years on the job.

As part of an initiative by Sheriff Mike Williams to review policies and programs of the Sheriff's Office, a group studying the department's management of resources is planning to look at officer retention issues as part of that study.

Tuesday members of the committee were told police officers were among those who are signing up early for the retirement program at a rapid rate, said Stephen Lundy, a pension benefits specialist and economic researcher for the fund.

He said a benefit package reorganization that will affect those with less than 20 years of service has speeded the pace that police officers join the deferred retirement program. Those with 20 or more years have a guaranteed 8.4 percent return on their retirement accounts, he said. Those with less have a less promising deal.

"All of these officers are signing up as soon as they can before it is changed again," Lundy said. "That is what they fear."

He said the numbers do not include others who leave before reaching a time when they can sign up.

"This doesn't even capture the officers that are leaving without even 20 years, not signing up for retirement and just transferring to another department," he said. …

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