Hallandale Beach Blog -A common sense public policy overview offering a critical perspective on the current events, politics, govt., public policy, sports scene and pop culture of the U.S., South Florida and Europe, especially the UK and Sweden. In particular, Broward & Miami-Dade County, and the cities of Hallandale Beach, Hollywood & Aventura. Trust me when I tell you, this part of Florida is NOT the Land of Lincoln. Pictured in upper-left is Hallandale Beach's iconic beachball-colored Water Tower on State Road A1A; September 2008 photo by me, South Beach Hoosier. © 2013 Hallandale Beach Blog, All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Rising pension costs increase odds of BSO replacing Hollywood Police; South Florida's "excessively generous" benefits kill taxpayers

http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/local/breakingnews/sfl-042409-hollywood-outsourcing,0,7689927.story

South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Hollywood considering BSO for police, fire

By Ihosvani Rodriguez

April 24, 2009


HOLLYWOOD

Those blue police uniforms and black-and-white cruisers soon could change colors because of the bad economy.

Facing a $17.9 million deficit in next year's budget, city officials may hire the Broward Sheriff's Office to take over the police and fire services.

City Manager Cameron Benson sent a letter this week to Sheriff Al Lamberti, essentially asking him to make a proposal. The city has hired a consulting group to analyze what type of savings outsourcing would bring.

"The City of Hollywood has authorized [consultants] to begin the groundwork to determine what, if any, arrangements would make sense for both the city and BSO," Benson wrote.

"The public is not going to stand for this," police union representative Jeff Marano said. "If you look at other cities that have done this, there's a savings at first, but in the long run the cities fall hostage to the sheriff over what you can and can't do.''

A private company took over the city's sanitation department in January.

Reader comments at: http://www.topix.net/forum/source/south-florida-sun-sentinel/TANULA3N7LD0FT4VE

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http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/local/breakingnews/sfl-hollywood-union-bn042909,0,3427722.story

South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Memorial for Hollywood officer draws union fire

Police union says those who attend support outsourcing their department

By Ihosvani Rodriguez

April 29, 2009


HOLLYWOOD

Hollywood A memorial service for Hollywood Police Officer Alex Del Rio, killed last year in a fiery wreck, is scheduled for Friday, but the police union isn't welcoming everyone.

Union leaders are upset the city is studying the possibility of outsourcing the police department to the Broward Sheriff's Office as a cost-cutting measure. The city recently hired a consultant to analyze what type of savings outsourcing the police and other city departments would yield.

Del Rio, 31, died Nov. 22 after his cruiser hit a tree on Sheridan Street and erupted into flames.

In a letter sent to the mayor and commissioners on Monday, the union asked that anyone supporting the initiative not attend the fallen officer's ceremony, scheduled for 10 a.m. Friday in front of the police station.

"You will be perceived as just another hypocritical politician hiding behind another consultant," wrote police union leader Jeff Marano.

Marano said the proposal has dampened department morale. The thought of "being split up and sent to one of the four corners of Broward County has infuriated the rank and file," he said.

Union leaders got mad last week when they learned City Manager Cameron Benson sent a letter about the outsourcing proposal to Sheriff Al Lamberti. Benson said the city is facing a $17.9 million deficit in next year's budget.

Most commissioners contacted this week expressed disappointment at the union's letter. They emphasized there is a general consensus to look into outsourcing all city departments, not just police.

"The [union] leadership had an opportunity to say, 'You are all invited and we want you to attend [the memorial] to show your solidarity," said Commissioner Richard Blattner.

Commissioner Beam Furr, a previous union target for his vocal stance against high pension funds, said he will also attend. "I pay my final respects to whoever I want, when I want and where I want," said Furr.

In an attempt to restore morale and calm fears, Police Chief Chad Wagner this week e-mailed all his officers his thoughts on the outsourcing talks.

"It's no secret that the city is facing difficult financial times," he wrote in the e-mail, a copy of which was obtained by the Sun Sentinel. "I feel confident that we, as a city, will be able to resolve our budget issues without dissolving an entire police department."

Meanwhile, Hollywood police are not the only ones upset with their city leaders. This week, members of the Hallandale Police Department's union voted down the city's latest contract offer by a vote of 56-7.

Marano, who also represents Hallandale, said the turndown was part of a protest over the city's hiring practices. The union takes issue with rehiring high-ranking brass who have retired and continue drawing a pension, like Police Chief Thomas Magill.

"This double-dipping is creating animosity among the ranks because it hampers officers' ability to advance their careers," said Marano.

Related links

Reader comments at: http://www.topix.net/forum/source/south-florida-sun-sentinel/T5P03031TSN44E540

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http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/local/palmbeach/sfl-accrued-time-p050309pnmay03,0,6588290.story

South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Cashing out: Unused sick time and vacations turning costly in South Florida

Palm Beach County and some of its municipalities let workers roll over unused sick time and vacations from year to year. But now that times are tough and many are facing layoffs, payday is coming so

By Patty Pensa and Andy Reid

May 3, 2009


A high-level county employee built up almost $130,000 in unused sick and vacation time during his 30-year government career, logging the highest county payout in the past five years.


The former police chief in Delray Beach retired last year with $109,000 in accrued time from city taxpayers.

In Boca Raton and Boynton Beach, top fire-rescue officials each left their posts recently with more than $50,000 from saved-up vacation and sick days.

Taxpayers in Palm Beach County and the three south county cities are responsible for almost $80 million of rolled over vacation and sick time for about 10,000 employees, records show. It's improbable the money would be requested en masse, but the policies could mean pricey payouts as budget cuts trigger more government layoffs.

"It can be quite a hit if it is somebody who has been around for a long time," said Janis Brunell, county human resources director.

Converting sick days into cash has been scaled back since the "massive payouts" to top county managers in the mid-1990s, Brunell said. County officials changed the rules in 1994 but still pay employees a percentage of their unused sick time. More than 7,000 county employees have racked up about $50 million of sick and vacation time, records show.

Policies in Palm Beach County mirror those in most municipalities, which pay employees for unused sick and vacation time at varying rates based on years of service and union contracts.

Broward County and most of its municipalities owed roughly 19,000 of their staffers more than $191 million for unused sick and vacation days as of Sept. 30, 2008, the latest records available. The bill for some of them may come due much sooner than anticipated if the economic crisis forces local governments to lay off workers.

An eye-popping payout came in Sunrise last year when City Manager Patrick Salerno resigned after 18 years with about $467,000 in accrued time, records show. Salerno could not be reached to comment despite messages left at his home.

One payment in Palm Beach County reached as high as about $130,000, records show. Earl Mixon, the former executive director of Palm Beach County's Housing Finance Authority, retired in 2008 with more than $122,000 in sick time and $7,000 in vacation time. He died the same year.

With cuts expected again as cities and counties crunch their 2009-10 budgets, some warn governments may have to go the way of the private sector, which generally imposes a use-it-or-lose-it policy.

If governments continue to allow employees to accrue unused time, "more taxes will be passed on to pay for the deficits," said Kim Stattner, an expert on absence management for Hewitt Associates, an Illinois-based human resources consulting service.

Dominic Calabro, president of Florida TaxWatch, a nonpartisan government watchdog group in Tallahassee, called the benefits "excessively generous."

"We are paying them millions of dollars when we can't provide teachers with more competitive wages or provide care for low-income citizens. It is so out of touch with the way taxpayers have to live," he said.

Government officials defend the payouts as tied to union contracts that cannot be nullified. The policies may be remnants of a time when government pay wasn't on par with the private sector, but officials say they still must offer competitive benefits to recruit.

What's more, officials say the payouts are an ever-changing liability, not a line item in the budget that can be neatly cut. In Boca Raton, payouts come from the city's general fund reserves so there is little impact on the money it takes to run the city, said Mike Woika, assistant city manager.

"From a cash-flow standpoint, it's not really an issue," Woika said. "Though it's a high amount, we're able within the personnel budget to make those payments. It's certainly something that can be handled by our funds."

Boca Raton taxpayers owe almost 1,200 employees $12.3 million in accrued time. That's almost the amount budgeted to run the city's financial and development services departments and the city manager's office combined. Changing sick and vacation time policies likely won't come up during upcoming budget meetings but officials may reconsider the perk during union contract negotiations.

Palm Beach County has no similar plans.

"It's not as big a factor as it used to be," said County Administrator Bob Weisman.

Staff Writers Jennifer Gollan, Susannah Bryan, Maria Herrera and Erika Pesantes contributed to this report.

Find out
Who gets the largest payouts? What does your city owe? Go to sunsentinel.com/payouts
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http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/local/southflorida/sfl-accrued-time-b050309pnmay03,0,4500257.story

South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Sun Sentinel Exclusive

Cashing out: Unused sick time and vacations turning costly in South Florida

Broward County and most of its municipalities let workers roll over unused sick time and vacations from year to year. But now that times are tough and many are facing layoffs, payday is coming soone

A former military man with a strong work ethic, C. William Hargett Jr. seldom took a sick or vacation day in more than 12 years as Pompano Beach city manager. When he retired in 2007, the city had to pay him $144,611.85 for 1,540 hours in unused time.

Hargett defended the city's accrued time policy as a way to encourage good attendance and attract top talent.

Although Pompano Beach now faces a $4 million revenue shortfall, "when we did this deal, it was not 2009 and an economic recession," he said. "That was what we agreed to."

Broward County and most of its municipalities owed roughly 19,000 of their staffers more than $191 million for unused sick and vacation days as of Sept. 30, 2008, the latest records available, a Sun Sentinel investigation has found. The bill for some of them may come due much sooner than anticipated if the economic crisis forces local governments to lay off workers.

"If we have to lay people off, they will all cash out their leaves and you will have more payouts," said John Pryor, Broward County's accounting division director. That will further strain budgets at a time when governments can ill afford it, local officials say.


These payouts are a ballooning expense for taxpayers because the sums build from year to year, with some local governments paying their workers in today's dollars for vacation time they actually accrued when they earned less.

The sums can be hefty. For example, former Sunrise City Manager Patrick Salerno last year received $466,708 for his unused time when he resigned after nearly 18 years on the job. It was the largest payout in the county in the past five years. Salerno could not be reached to comment, despite three messages left at his home.

Southwest Ranches and Lazy Lake are the only two local governments that do not allow workers to roll over any time from year to year, primarily to save money. Hillsboro Beach allows workers to carry over sick time, but not vacation days.

By contrast, the private sector generally imposes a use-it-or-lose-it policy and some warn that cities need to follow suit.

If governments continue to allow employees to accrue unused time, "more taxes will be passed on to pay for the deficits," said Kim Stattner, an expert on absence management for Hewitt Associates, an Illiniois-based human resources consulting service.

Dominic Calabro, president of Florida TaxWatch, a nonpartisan government watchdog group based in Tallahassee, called the benefits "excessively generous."

"We are paying them millions of dollars when we can't provide teachers with more competitive wages or provide care for low-income citizens. It is so out of touch with the way taxpayers have to live," he said.

Some cities are starting to rethink the benefits for new hires.

"To keep [costs] from spiraling in the future, we need to talk with the unions," said Phil Rosenberg, director of human resources in Miramar, which owes about 830 workers nearly $13 million in accrued pay.

Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood and Pembroke Pines said they may also consider it.

"Everything is up for discussion because we are looking at potential revenue shortfalls," said Matt Little, a spokesman for Fort Lauderdale, which owed more than 2,300 workers about $16 million. That is nearly equivalent to this year's budget for the city's parks division, which totals $17.2 million.

Local governments vary as to how many hours they allow workers to accumulate. Payouts are based on a formula that takes into account years of service, pay and various union contracts.

Broward County allows most of its employees to roll over up to 280 vacation hours from year to year and cash out at full pay. There is no limit on sick time — which is paid out at half the rate of an employees' most recent salary when they leave.

Yet the Broward County Property Appraiser's office has a more stringent policy, which allows employees to carry over about 113 hours of vacation from year to year. The maximum they may cash out when they leave is 225 hours. There is no limit on the amount of sick time they can accrue and cash out, but for the employees who qualify, it is generally paid out at 25 percent of their current rate of pay.

"Vacation. You're supposed to use it. You're not supposed to hoard it for a second retirement," said Broward County Property Appraiser Lori Parrish, who tightened accrual policies when she took up her post in 2005. "For sick days, everybody catches an occasional cold. But it's not the government's job to fund benefits that exceed the public's. I also don't want to book that kind of debt in tight budget times."

Jeff Marano, senior vice president of the Broward County Police Benevolent Association, defends the benefits as just reward for public servants.

"If an officer called in sick, and someone was called in to replace him, the city would be paying time and a half," he said. "It is the industry standard [in the public sector] that people are allowed to accrue vacation time. The private sector probably has a much better package and they are not shot at."

But compensation analysts disagree over whether civil servants earn less than their counterparts in the private sector, especially when retirement benefits are considered. While few private companies still offer traditional pensions, they are widely used in the public sector. Under these plans, retirees receive monthly payments, instead of payouts subject to market fluctuations.

Even some city leaders acknowledge the benefits are a legacy from a different era.

"Previously, government employees' salaries were less, now they are more competitive," said Pembroke Pines City Manager Charles Dodge. "They were benefits that the bargaining units negotiated years ago. In the last three or four years, we haven't been recruiting employees, in fact we have been downsizing. We have never had a problem retaining employees."

Susannah Bryan contributed to this report.

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For more on the police pension angle, see Michael Mayo's blog post of May 28, 2008 titled Police pensions strike a nerve
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Per the comment made at the end of the first article, according to
a very reliable source that that Hallandale Beach Fire Chief Daniel
Sullivan also "retired" and was instantly "rehired" a few months ago.
Don't recall seeing that in the local newspapers.

That's the same process employed by HB Police Chief Thomas Magill,
as alluded to in the second article.
Most of you who come to this blog regularly already know that I think
he ought to be in prison because of his unethical behavior, wherein he
tried to frame not one but two innocent people, using city resources
and funds to accomplish this, in an apparent attempt to ingratiate
himself with City Manager Mike Good.

And isn't that the same exact process that HB City Manager Mike
Good went thru in December during a HB City Commission meeting
where the issue was never properly noticed to the public, didn't
appear on the printed agenda and where the vote took place away
from the city's own cable channel TV cameras?
Yes.

H-m-m-m... do you see a pattern?

But wouldn't the city have been legally required to publicly
advertise for those jobs if these individuals had, in fact, legally
retired?
Also a big yes.

It's yet another in a very long line of cases where HB City
Attorney David Jove has winked at the law rather than actually
performing the job that taxpayers pay his salary for:
making sure the city is following the letter and spirit
of the law.

But though you may think he works for you and other Hallandale
Beach citizens and taxpayers, the truth is, in his mind, he works
for Mike Good, and as long as that's the case, he's going to
continue to be oblivious to all the self-evident ethical mis-behavior
taking place around here.

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