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Palm Beach council adopts pension overhaul for police, firefighters (5/12/16)

Palm Beach (5/12/16) - The Town Council voted Tuesday to boost pension benefits for public safety employees with the aim of improving recruitment and retention in the fire-rescue and police departments, where deep pension cuts enacted in 2012 triggered an exodus of workers.

The council voted 4-1 to abandon an unpopular hybrid plan. The town had continued to offer a sharply reduced traditional defined benefit plan while introducing a new defined contribution plan in which the town and employees pay into individual retirement accounts. Public Safety Director Kirk Blouin has said the employees didn’t care about the individual retirement accounts so they were not effective recruitment or retention tools.

The new defined benefit plan, which is intended to be competitive with other public safety departments in South Florida, will take effect sometime after the end of this budget year on Sept. 30.

About a third of the police department’s employees have only one to three years of experience, Councilwoman Margaret Zeidman said. The officers are getting trained in Palm Beach, then leaving for other law enforcement agencies in South Florida — virtually all of which have better pension benefits than Palm Beach.

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