Downstate consolidation of police and fire pensions is currently being worked out in the General Assembly. A local firefighters’ union has come out in support of the consolidation plan. Jacksonville Firefighters Local 637 President Dan Klendworth explains some of the reasons why his union has come out in support of the new plan. “AAFI has been working diligently with our members in obtaining the best possible outcome after the pension consolidation task force’s recommendations came out about a month ago. The statewide fund that’s governed by AFFI members and our employers will provide the opportunity to continue with our same local pension boards administering the same benefits and same central functions that they have been for a long time now. It also addresses the inequities of the Tier 2 benefits, which were changed for anybody hired after January 1, 2011.”
Klendworth says the Tier 2 problems were one of the biggest sticking points with the consolidation plan because of the inequities of those hired after a particular date by local municipalities. Klendworth feels that the new law will address that and make it more equal across the board. He says that the firefighters attend the same emergencies as other firefighters and they should receive comparable benefits. He believes that now that the statewide police and firefighters unions are now on board with the consolidation plan that things will conclude some of the Tier 2 problem.
Klendworth says that firefighters are several times more likely to contract specific forms of aggressive cancer and heart disease, so it’s not a money grab for local firefighters. They are simply hoping to ensure they have a retirement that could possibly cover a cataclysmic health event should it happen or to have enough money to take care of their families in retirement. “This isn’t something that’s fiscal for us. This is our future. Our future depends on this with the inherent dangers of our job and the things that we may see on a day-to-day basis. We want to continue to serve Jacksonville the best that we can. All of the firefighters love the community. They definitely want to get behind the AFFI and try to keep the same benefits that we currently get.”
Klendworth says that the amount of return from a larger investment by the proposed state board makes it a more fiscally responsible move. Klendworth says that the City of Jacksonville has done a great job in years past of trying to become fiscally solvent with the pensions for firefighters and policemen compared to other municipalities around the state. Senate Bill 1300 House Amendment 5 was recommended to be adopted yesterday by the Personnel and Pensions Committee in the General Assembly and is expected to be voted on by the end of the Veto Session this week.