Firefighters won't get pension increase
Seminole city officials deny the request, saying debt and reluctance to increase taxes make the move financially unsound.
By ANNE LINDBERG, Times Staff Writer
Published March 27, 2005

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SEMINOLE - Council members turned down a request by retired firefighters that they be given a one-time pension increase retroactive to the date they last worked.

The decision came last Tuesday during a workshop in which Seminole City Manager Frank Edmunds strongly encouraged the council not to grant the request, which would have cost about $130,000 a year.

In advising council members to turn down the retirees' request, Edmunds pointed to the high percentage of payroll the city already puts into the pension plan for firefighters Seminole now employs.

He also referred to a debt of about $1.2-million the city owes from the early 1990s when the pension plan was converted to its current form.

Those two issues, combined with the council's reluctance to increase taxes, could put the city in a bind should the economy go sour, Edmunds said. If that happened, the city might have to cut $130,000 from elsewhere in the budget to make up for the money that would go to retirees.

"It would have an impact on the delivery of services," Edmunds said.

Dwaine Booth, a retired Seminole firefighter and retired county assistant director of EMS and fire administration, pleaded with the council to consider giving the firefighters a break.

"Anything would help," Booth said. "Anything helps us now. We've still got to buy groceries every day."

Council member Jimmy Johnson was inclined to listen: "I think we might give it some consideration."

But newly elected council member Dan Hester thought differently.

"I'm not convinced the timing is appropriate," Hester said.

A majority of the council agreed with Hester.

Earlier in the evening during its official meeting, the council elected John Counts as vice mayor.

Council member Janet Long had nominated Patricia Hartstein, who was seconded by Hester. But Hartstein withdrew, leaving the position open for Counts.

[Last modified March 27, 2005, 00:34:19]