HOLLYWOOD, FL — Slashed pay and extreme pension cuts caused a rift between Hollywood and its police and firefighters that has lasted almost a decade.
Hollywood took steps to end the feud with the city’s firefighters on Wednesday, a month after mending fences with police.
A plan that would restore pension benefits at an estimated cost of $2.6 million a year won unanimous commission approval. A final vote will take place on March 20.
“Long overdue,” Commissioner Peter Hernandez said before Wednesday’s vote.
A similar measure for police won approval last month. It will cost an estimated $4.5 million a year.
Hollywood already spends an estimated $50 million on pension legacy costs, city officials say.
Assistant City Manager George Keller called the pension restoration plan a “landmark decision” that will help the city close the door on a painful past.
Back in 2011, Hollywood leaders were desperate to find a way to close a $38 million budget shortfall and declared financial urgency. To bridge the gap, they cut the pay and pension benefits for all city employees, including police and firefighters.
“Since 2011, we have slowly pieced things back together,” fire union leader Bill Huddleston said before Wednesday’s vote.
“Today is a happy day for me,” said Commissioner Linda Sherwood, prompting loud applause from dozens of firefighters in the audience.
Mayor Josh Levy made note of the full house and called the vote a historic moment.
“As we’re turning the tide, let’s all support and promote the city of Hollywood,” he said. “Let’s attract fellow firefighters and police officers who work in other jurisdictions.”
From The Sun Sentinel