20 Years and Out?
Monday, April 18, 2005; Page A16
CRITICIZED BECAUSE of soaring property taxes and public spending, Montgomery County politicians tend to defend themselves by noting that most of the county's budget is consumed by salaries and benefits for teachers, firefighters, police officers and other public workers. Since nearly four-fifths of county outlays are devoted to compensation -- most of it determined by collectively bargained contracts -- the County Council is left with precious little discretion when it comes to cutting the budget, they say. To listen to them, one might get the idea that public spending is all but beyond their control. Nonsense.
Here's a timely case in point: Under the terms of a labor contract pending approval by the council, Montgomery firefighters would be eligible for retirement with full benefits, including half their salary, after 20 years of service, instead of 25 years. On its face, this is a modest change. It would affect 900-odd fire and rescue workers (of nearly 30,000 total county employees, including teachers), and cost about $4.5 million annually (against a county budget projected at $3.6 billion for the fiscal year starting in July). But the real costs could be much higher.
The firefighters would be the first public employees in the county to shift to retirement after 20 years but surely not the last. Already, the leader of the union representing some 4,000 general county government workers is promising to follow suit. Will unions representing the 1,000 police, 11,000 teachers or 7,000 school support workers be far behind?
The county is known as a good and generous employer, and that reputation has helped it build a first-rate workforce. The firefighters' proposed contract, in addition to the retirement provisions, includes hefty wage increases and other benefits. Firefighters with 20 years' experience would earn between $67,000 and $74,000 starting in January; lieutenants and captains, who are also covered by the contract, would make a lot more. Aides to County Executive Douglas M. Duncan argue that the 20-year retirement provision, which the firefighters have sought for years, is necessary for Montgomery to maintain an edge in attracting the best young fire and rescue recruits in a keenly competitive regional employment market. They point out that firefighters in Prince George's County have long enjoyed a 20-year retirement option; more recently Howard and Anne Arundel counties and the city of Baltimore have also offered it.
But firefighters in the District and most suburban Virginia jurisdictions still work 25 years before they are eligible for retirement. And there is no evidence that Montgomery has had to struggle to fill its 80 annual recruitment slots for fire and rescue workers, although minorities have not always been sufficiently represented. Moreover, a 20-year retirement plan would cost the county more than money -- it would also deprive the well-regarded Fire and Rescue Service of some of its most experienced people by the time they reach their mid-forties.
The council has tended to rubber-stamp labor contracts hammered out between the county executive and public employees unions. There have been a few exceptions, though; in the 1980s, the council rejected a 20-year retirement provision that the police sought on a one-year trial basis. The firefighters' contract deserves close consideration of its long-term costs.
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04-18-2005, 03:38 PM #1
Should Career firefighters be expected to last 25 years?
04-18-2005, 04:40 PM #2
In Massachusetts, the magic retirement numbers in the Civil Service System are 32 years of service at age 55 for 80% of your highest three year average of earnings. That is if you take option A on your retirement, which means that after you die, the pension ends.
Options B and C pay less percentage wise, but assure your survivors benefits after you pass on.
I believe that one can retire at 50% after 20 years if they so choose."The education of a firefighter and the continued education of a firefighter is what makes "real" firefighters. Continuous skill development is the core of progressive firefighting. We learn by doing and doing it again and again, both on the training ground and the fireground."
Lt. Ray McCormack, FDNY
04-18-2005, 04:47 PM #3
It's thirty Years in the UK.....
I joined at 18 and will have to go on until I am 50 making that 32 years. I can stay on until I am 55, but my Pension will not increase. There are plans to change our Pension so that we HAVE to go on until 55...that will give me a grand total of 37 years....My god, I have 18 in now and I am just about reaching the halfway mark!!!
Officers of my rank (equiv Batt Chief) and above right up to Chief Fire Officer can go on until they are 60. THat would give me 42 years.... maybe not!!!Steve Dude
London Fire Brigade...."Can Do"
'Irony'... It's a British thing.
04-18-2005, 04:53 PM #4
25 is fine, if you start young enough. The problem is you have FF who start in the mid to late 30's and are pushing 60 before they retire.
This wouldnt be an issue if every 60 yo FF was a Chief, and not ridding a jumpseat, but we all know thats not the case. And please dont think im picking on older FFs. Im sure there are 50+ yo FFs that can out last my 40 yo a** on a fire ground. But they would be the exception.
I think ALL fire service agencies should be 20 and out. What these cities (state in my case) need to look at is sick leave, insurance and medical cost increases as FFs age.
As for our state retirement, its on the legislatures agenda to change to 20 and out. It didnt pass last time, but we hear it has a decent chance now. Were keeping our finges crossed.
Last edited by Dave1983; 04-18-2005 at 05:31 PM.Fire Marshal/Safety Officer
"No his mind is not for rent, to any god or government"
Success is when skill meets opportunity
Failure is when fantasy meets reality
04-18-2005, 05:10 PM #5
I agree with Dave in that I think a 20 year pension can be quite appropriate in the fire service. Most services are not hiring 20 year old kids anymore, but rather many 30-40 year olds. It would be a shame for someone to get hired at 35, but not be able to put in the 25-30 years required for a full pension.
The Canadian Military for example uses 20 years for a full pension, partial at 15. They know full well, most can't hump a machine gun for 25 miles at 50. Similarly, not all fire departments have enough officer, investigator, trainer, or public safety officer positions for the crusties to move into as they mature. Obviously you shouldn't be required to retire at 20, since most have many good years ahead of them. But I think it is a fair number for such a physically demanding job.
Last edited by mcaldwell; 04-18-2005 at 05:12 PM.Never argue with an Idiot. They drag you down to their level, and then beat you with experience!
04-18-2005, 05:17 PM #6
04-18-2005, 05:29 PM #7Originally posted by DennisTheMenace
So should we throw in a MAX age for recruitment the way the military does?
To hire a 45 year old who has no previous career time just means you outlay all that cash for maybe 15 years of service at best.
A 35 year old with a 20 year pension requirement would be fine, maybe a 40 year old with previous experience and/or a partial pension fund started, but if your pushing that envelope by much, you just aren't getting a good return on your tax dollars, and you're potentially leaving an employee to retire without an adequate pension.Never argue with an Idiot. They drag you down to their level, and then beat you with experience!
04-18-2005, 05:32 PM #8
The city of Montgomery, AL is giving serious consideration to raising their requirement from 20 to 25 years of service.
Their stated reason is that they're losing people to other departments. I'm not sure there isn't a bigger financial reason too but there is at least some truth to the city's stated reason. Montgomery runs their own retirement system, while neighboring cities like Prattville participate in the state-run system. Guys in their late 30s and early 40s can retire from MFD, draw their pension, and go right to work with another department because the pension plans are different.
It can be a REALLY good deal. The state retirement system lets you draw a reduced (but still significant pension) at 62 years old + 10 years of service so it is quite possible to work for the second department, retire a second time in your early 50s, and still qualify for a very nice "walkin' around money" check when you hit 62.
I'm not fussing about the guys that do this (my first cousin could do it), in fact I envy them. I'm just throwing it out to add to the discussion.
04-18-2005, 05:42 PM #9
I find an age of retirement might be best. Like you need the 20 years to retire with a 50% pension, but you have to stay on until age 50 or atleast don't collect until age 50. Think about a 38 year old guy that joined right out of H.S., should he be able to start collecting right then for the next 40+years? Should the tax payers have to fund that? It is one thing with the military, where you are on the job PTing and wearing out the body 5-6 days a week, vs the typical FF schedule that is 2-3 days a week at the "office", to get the pension after 20 years of service(plus military pay is substaintially lower, since housing and other payments are not included in retirement pay).
I don't think that pensions should be cut, if a pension for 20 years is 50% then working another five years should put it at 62.5%. So maybe 25 years or age 50 is not unreasonable at all.
04-18-2005, 07:16 PM #10Originally posted by DennisTheMenace
So should we throw in a MAX age for recruitment the way the military does?
If a person has at least two years of previous experience as a career firefighter and if those years of experience when subtracted from the person's age leaves a remainder of not more than 32, they can be hired. (Example: 40-year-old with 10 years experience can be hired. A 40-year-old with five years experience can't.)
Also, there is no age limit if the primary functions of the position applied for involve administrative, managerial or supervisory duties.
It is interesting to note that there is no maximum age for police officers.
04-18-2005, 10:35 PM #11
- Join Date
- Feb 2001
- Illinois-where pertnear is close enough!
I don't know if a 25 year career can be expected, but it is certainly within the realm of possibility for many.
As is the case in many occupations; as long as someone can continue to pass the requisite requirements, then please continue.
Mandatory retirement is a cookie cutter approach to aging.
Tell Paul Newman that he has to give up his race car.
Tell Clint Eastwood that he's too old to make movies.
George Burns never retired.
And neither will I.
Remember Bradley Golden (9/25/01)
RIP HOF Robert J. Compton(ENG6511)
04-19-2005, 12:07 AM #12
I think this might stir the hornets nest a bit.
If some people feel we should be forced to retire around age 50 or so because of not being able to do the work, then the same should apply to volunteers and they should be made to hand in their badges too. Let's have one standard. I'm not looking to start a paid-vs-volunteer fight so if you want to do that go elsewhere.
04-19-2005, 12:25 AM #13
- Join Date
- May 1999
- Here, There, Everywhere
I thank god I have the option of retiring at 20 years. This is really a young mans game. Not everone is a company officer or Chief. Do some guys go longer sure...many however can tell that the job has taken its toll.
Many I know during their last years move on to slower houses closer to home...thank god their is that option for them because I know some guys have told me their bodies just can't keep up with the heavy workload.
Also many forget we get a disporportionately higher rate of cancer and die earlier than most people. It might be the thing to do and take the retirement and enjoy it while you are still young enough to do so.
I'm not sure I understand the rationalization that just because firemen have a 20 year pension that teachers need one as well. They aren't a uniformed service and certainly can teach well into their 60s 70s and even 80s.
04-19-2005, 12:44 AM #14
FFFRED..I don't think being a company officer has much to do with it as any good one is in there with the troops. Maybe not pulling hose,pulling a tin ceiling or cutting a roof,but you can still take a beating.Even in a slower company,everyone gets their turn in the barrel.You are definately right it is a younger mans job,I'm kind of glad I just traded my irons in for a handlight and radio.
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