Firefighter pension package approved by County Council 25-year retirement includes increased payout

October 08, 1997|By Craig Timberg | Craig Timberg,SUN STAFF

The long and contentious battle over an improved retirement package for Howard County firefighters ended quietly with unanimous County Council approval Monday.

"We're pleased with it," said Jeff Loomis, firefighter union president. "It's an improvement to the retirement system, and any improvement is a good improvement."

The issue flared in January, when negotiators for County Executive Charles I. Ecker, a Republican, agreed to a new contract allowing firefighters to retire after 20 years, five years earlier than allowed under the previous contract.

Council Republicans argued the change would cost taxpayers millions of dollars, and, after several emotional hearings, they rejected the deal. They countered with an offer to improve the retirement package, but only after the 25th year of service.

The new contract, accepted by the union in July and the council on Monday, allows firefighters who retire after 25 years to receive 57 1/2 percent of their salaries for the rest of their lives. After 30 years of service, retirement payments would be 65 percent.

The old system pays 50 percent after 25 years and 60 percent after 30 years. A quirk in the new contract allows partial retirement payments of 39 percent after 20 years of service, up from 34 percent under the old system.

The police union, which fought a similar battle for a 20-year retirement, may now seek the deal accepted by the firefighters. "We may do that," said John Paparazzo, president of the police union.

Pub Date: 10/08/97

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