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Hollywood Police, Fire Unions To Fight Referendum On Pension Reform

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(Photo Source: Hollywoodpolice.org)

(Photo Source: Hollywoodpolice.org)

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HOLLYWOOD (CBS4)- The same day that Hollywood failed to meet its deadline to cancel a special election to reform employee pension benefits without incurring more costs, the police and fire union presidents said they are ready to campaign against the referendum.

“Our members have been itching to do something,” said Fire union president Dan Martinez, saying his members will come out in droves to defeat the voter referendum that could drastically slash pension benefits.

According to CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald, city spokeswoman Raelin Storey said Friday the city had no choice but to keep the referendum on track for a Sept. 13 election. That means Hollywood voters will decide whether the city’s employees should have reduced benefits in order to save the city $8.5 million.

The special election could cost the city up to $400,000 – so far the city owes about $30,000, said Mary Cooney, a Broward County Supervisor of Elections spokeswoman. The city would have had to cancel by noon Friday to avoid more costs because now poll workers will begin to train Monday, Cooney said.

Storey said despite negotiations with all three unions, the parties failed to reach a compromise, the Herald reported. The city’s pension ordinances require either the membership to approve changes by the majority plus one or the voters to approve the changes.

The city has been working with the police, fire and general employees union to come up with an agreement that slash pension benefits and save the city about $8.5 million. The cuts would help the city fill its $38.5 million budget gap, according to the Herald.

The city’s proposal includes changing the multiplier used to figure out one’s pension; eliminating sick and vacation time from the calculations and increasing the age at which a person can retire.

The pension changes are in response to rising pension costs. In 2010, pensions cost the city about $36.8 million.

Even though an agreement was not made by Friday, the city said it will continue to negotiate with all of the unions until the Sept. 13 election. As the election gets closer it will owe more money though, said Cooney.

Storey said while the city is still open to settle, it is preparing for an election. By state law, cities are not allowed to advocate a position, but can send information out to voters explaining the referendum.

(©2011 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald contributed material for this report)

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