WASTE WATCH: Escambia County pay raises

Updated: Saturday, August 3 2013, 02:33 PM CDT
WASTE WATCH:  Escambia County pay raises story image
A law requiring public employees to pay 3 % of their salary into their retirement account.
The law was challenged as unconstitutional, and was overturned by a circuit court.
    
Thursday the Florida Supreme Court reversed that upholding the law in a 4-3 decision.
    
Since 2011, Florida governmental employees have been paying a mandatory three percent into their retirement. A fact that's been battled back and forth in the courts.

This week a ruling says that mandatory contribution will continue.
It's the focus of our Waste Watch report.

The 3 percent taken from paychecks of the 623,000 workers in the Florida retirement system... Helped legislators plug deep holes in public budgets the past two years.

A decision siding with the unions who represent public employees could have created millions of dollars in budget gap for local governments which would have had to reimburse money already taken from employees.

While the unions call the decision unconstitutional the court of public opinion hands down a different verdict.

Rudy Martinez/Supports Mandatory Pension
"If my company did it and they told me, 'hey we're going to give five percent of you paycheck...it's going to be put up and it's going to be part of your retirement...we're going to keep and save and put it up and then you get it towards the end...it's yours'. It's just a matter of when you're going to get it. I don't have a problem with that at all."

Jane Birdwell/Business Owner
"Pensions have to be looked at. I mean we all know that it's been a situation that's been upside down for a long time. The future never seems bright in that area, so at some point we have to deal with it."

Escambia, Okaloosa and Santa Rosa Counties have all given their employees three percent salary adjustments to balance out the mandatory pension contribution.

But data from the most recent census and our local counties shows that county employees on average are doing quite well.

Escambia County
per Capita Income        $23,773
avg County Salary    $37,100

In Escambia County employees make 13 thousand dollars more than the per capita income.

Santa Rosa County
per Capita Income        $26,507
avg County Salary    $36,134

In Santa Rosa County the gap is ten thousand dollars.

Okaloosa County
per Capita Income        $28,505
avg County Salary    $39,814

And in Okaloosa County employes are more than eleven thousand dollars better off.

But many of those employees haven't seen a true raise in years and they are feeling the pinch as budget belts tighten.

Wilson Robertson/Escambia County Commissioner
"We out our millage and our taxes back 30 million dollars. They deserve a little bit of an increase in the cost of living because they're doing so much more with so much less."

(Will)
Whether or not our counties continue to offset the mandatory three percent contribution will be part of the budgeting process as we go forward and we'll keep an eye on that for you.

WASTE WATCH: Escambia County pay raises
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