Sanford facing $20 million shortfall; pensions in danger


Dozens of police and firefighters in Sanford are fighting to save their pension plans Monday.

SANFORD, Fla. - Dozens of police and firefighters in Sanford are fighting to save their pension plans.

The union members pay into the plan with each paycheck, but the city's decreased revenues and increased costs have created a $20 million shortfall as of October 2012.

It's expected to be a heated topic at a Monday meeting, because a lot of people are counting on the money for their retirement.

Sanford Mayor Jeff Triplett said this issue has been building up over time, but no one has wanted to sit down and discuss it.

The commission does not want to raise taxes. Those who count on the pension don't want to pay in any more than they have been.

In a standing-room-only crowd that spilled into a hall, police and fire union members learned how underfunded their pension system is.

Triplett said the city's revenues have dropped by $4 million over the past four years, but pension costs to the city have gone up by $2 million.

Now the city does not have enough money to pay employees what they were promised for retirement.

David Frost, president of the International Association of Firefighters, said it's worrisome.

"A lot of the members, the older members, have been working toward this for their full career. It makes them worry as far as what is going to be available for them," Frost said.

To make up the deficit, a third-party report outlines a number of options including employees paying in a higher percentage of their paycheck, resulting in a take-home pay cut.

"Paying more right now, we're at the top of the scale in our city, so I don't know that's an option," Frost said.

Another less popular choice with the commission is raising taxes.

"There were promises that were made, and we're trying to keep those promises, but we can't continue down this path," Triplett said.