110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
posted Jun 17, 2012 - 10:17:25pm
Voters should not fault District 4 County Council Member Carl Persis for signing up for DROP. Anyone whose job is covered by the Florida Retirement System who is either 62 years old or with 30 years on the job is eligible to do so.
DROP — Deferred Retirement Option Program — is a way to begin getting monthly pension payments while continuing to work and continuing to also receive regular paychecks. The pension payments go into a trust fund.
The DROP participant agrees to retire within five years of signing up; upon retirement, the employee receives the deferred pension in a lump sum, plus five years’ worth of interest, and also begins receiving monthly pension checks.
Yes, it’s a very good deal. It’s like double salary for five years.
It’s OK to marvel at how well Carl Persis will be situated for retirement: a DROP payout of $274,000, plus a monthly pension of about $4,700, plus — if he is elected — his county-chair salary of about $48,000 a year for one or two four-year terms.
But, it’s also important to remember that any public-school administrator with a principal’s paygrade who works 35 years, as Persis did, and who signed up for DROP after 30 years, should be just about as well-situated.
The fact that Persis enjoys this retirement advantage likely would never have become a campaign issue in the county-chair race, except that a rule change in 2010 prevents Persis’ retirement benefits from starting until he is out of work for six months.
To get the monthly retirement income he and his wife were counting on (which they thought would begin in December 2011), Persis must resign from the County Council now, to create a six-month unemployment gap before his county-chair job would begin — if he is elected — in January 2013.
So, it becomes a campaign issue. Fair enough.
In fairness, though, we should remember that DROP and the rules governing the administration of the Florida Retirement System aren’t the purview of the Volusia County Council. Persis didn’t make those rules; he’s just taking advantage of the benefits that go along with his 35-year career.
There are public-sector retirees all over Florida — indeed, all over the United States — who are enjoying benefits similar to the ones Persis will get.
Remarkably, though, workers in the public sector continue to claim that they would be much better off financially in private-sector jobs.
This is the real issue, and we don’t buy the argument. It’s time to take a hard look at public-sector retirement benefits, and bring them in line with what the private-sector taxpayers can afford.
The Florida Legislature can begin by dropping DROP. Doing so would have been a much smarter idea than requiring all employees in the state retirement system to contribute 3 percent of their pay to their retirement, even though that requirement was in direct conflict with the terms of those employees’ contracts.
The 3-percent contribution was, justifiably, challenged in court and will probably be shot down.
Volusia County voters won’t do themselves any favors by choosing the next county chair based on anger over Carl Persis’ plush retirement income.
Voters should, however, make public-sector compensation and retirement benefits an issue in this year’s elections.
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