BY JOSEPH J. MERCOGLIANO
The Sun Sentinel recently ran an article regarding the financial MESS the City of Plantation is in.
Plantation Mayor Diane Veltri Bendekovic characterized men and women police officers as having an “entitlement mindset” when it comes to contract negotiations. The mayor went on to state the Fraternal Order of Police has received raises of up to 8% and we have not taken any cuts/steps to help alleviate the financial situation in the city.
This Sun-Sentinel article was originally supposed to be about how the City’s Finance Director Krista Caravella stated to us the City is on the “verge of bankruptcy.” This was said during January’s contract session.
In the article seen in the link here, Gary Shimun, the city’s Chief Administrative Officer, stated that the Police Department should make up the upcoming $3 million budget deficit because other departments have. That is the farthest thing from the truth.
A simple analysis of the past City Budgets will disprove his statement.
The Police Department has lost over 20+ Officers via attrition since 2007 along with numerous civilian positions. Our capital account is almost non-existent and we have cut our budget by millions each year.
While it is true we received raises the past six years, they neglected to state the FOP took a one-year pay freeze in 2009, has offered to pay for our take home vehicles since 2008 and it was the City who negotiated and ratified the contracts we have worked under since 2006 which included the beginning of the economic downturn in the economy and housing market.
The City is well aware that they would have to wait until the end of the contract to re-negotiate or just contact us to reopen the contract, which they did not do during 2009-2012. The current Mayor was a sitting Council member when she voted on every single contract during her tenure. Our current mayor also receives a Florida Retirement System Pension and her husband receives a City Police Pension.
The Mayor is claiming the FOP is not willing to accept sacrifice as part of the negotiations, which is just not true. Our last proposal (five since June 2012) to the city totaled approximately $650,000 in savings to the City. The city turned the offers down!
(1)No raises for three years.
(2) Paying for our take-home vehicles (a dollar amount they recommended!),
(3) Starting a new pension plan for new hires (in addition to the new pension plan we created for new hires in 2009.),
(4) Taking three furlough days this year,
(5) Reducing our uniform stipend,
(6) Increasing our pension contribution to 11 percent from the current 9.5 percent,
(7) Paying more for our healthcare,
(8) Eliminating standby court pay,
(9) reducing overtime costs by accepting the Fair Labor Standards Act Exemption, and
(10) Increasing the administrative cost paid to the city for off-duty details.
On top of all this, the FOP is also accepting no pay raises, no STEP pay raises nor are we receiving longevity payments since our contract has expired.
The City turned all this down because they only want what they want. A lot of what they are proposing is nothing more than vindictiveness.
As an example, they want to restructure the current police pension to eliminate the option to work and retire at 20 years and increase this to age 55 AND 25 years of service. After serving 22 years, this would require me to work an additional 15 years to reach age 55 and I would have served 37 years! Their proposal would also reduce my take home salary by $10,000 + per year and reduce my pension from $60,000 to $40,000 per year. All after serving this city for over 22 years!
The City of Plantation is conducting business as usual.
Building Community Centers, making Midtown roads pretty for aesthetics (not safety) and still hiring personnel while they are crying poverty. Last year they did not give out raises for the General Employees (4 years in a row), eliminated 12 positions at the Police Department, furloughed employees for 3 days and laid off 8 employees. The City keeps claiming they want to do business as usual and keep Plantation the way it was and is. Unfortunately, because of horrible fiscal management, it is in the situation it is today.
Balancing the budget on the backs of all Plantation employees is not the answer and wrong.
The FOP is willing to negotiate. The key word is negotiating. Not accept a proposal from the City as gospel with a take it or leave it attitude.
(Joseph J. Mercogliano is the president of the Fraternal Order of Police – Plantation.)