Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Largo, state at odds over police benefits

LARGO — Since 1999, money meant for Largo police officers' retirement plans has been piling up, but the city has been unwilling to give it out for fear of guaranteeing a benefit that it couldn't afford in the future. More than $1 million in tax proceeds sits unused.

After a change in state law this year, however, Largo administrators think they can move forward with a plan to give the money out without costing the city. The state Division of Retirement disagrees, though, and could step in the way.

The money at stake is from the premium tax. The state collects the tax yearly on insurance policies (mostly automobile insurance) written in Largo and then gives it back to the city to be used for retirement benefits for firefighters and police officers. For 2010, the state collected about $516,000 in Largo to be used for police benefits.

Not all of that $516,000 went to police officers, though. Part of the annual collections have been held up since 1999, when a state law declared cities had to add new benefits if they wanted to use some of the premium tax money.

Fearful that a new benefit it can afford this year will be unaffordable 10 years from now due to inflating costs, city management hasn't added new retirement benefits. The portion of the premium tax tied to new benefits has stacked up to $1,033,000.

Largo's finance department has come up with a way to get this money to police officers without putting the city in a bind, though. It's called a share plan, and it basically means the city will split the money up according to years of service. The City Commission approved the plan in December, and 137 eligible police officers will receive between $900 and $11,700, according to city Finance Director Kim Adams.

There's a potential hitch, though. For years, the state has recommended a city count overtime hours toward a police officer's pension and said a city can't add a new benefit — like a share plan — before first meeting that recommendation. Largo just uses an officer's salary to calculate pension payout.

A 2011 state law inserted the word "may" before that recommendation, which Adams says makes it optional. Largo can now add a share plan without having to also factor in overtime hours when calculating an officer's pension, he says.

The state Division of Retirement does not agree with that interpretation, though, and Adams is expecting a disagreement.

"We're probably going to get some pushback, and we may end up in an administrative hearing," he said. "But we're doing it."

Keith Brinkman, bureau chief at the Division of Retirement, agreed that his agency will provide pushback. What that will mean is unclear. Brinkman thought Largo could probably give out the $1 million that is being held now, but the division would prevent future premium tax income from being split up through the share plan.

Adams, however, hopes the two sides can come to an agreement that allows the money to get to police officers.

"We are hoping to have this settled before the money is distributed," he said.

If the division doesn't step in, police officers should receive the extra money in the form of investment accounts in the next 30 to 60 days, Adams said.

Will Hobson can be reached at (727) 445-4167 or

Largo, state at odds over police benefits 12/27/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 27, 2011 5:06pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. 'Cavern' closes westbound lanes on E Fletcher Avenue in Hillsborough County


    Westbound lanes of E Fletcher Avenue are closed near the Hillsborough River to repair what the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office terms a "cavern" that formed under the roadway.

  2. Joss Whedon's ex-wife accuses him of cheating, being 'hypocrite preaching feminist ideals'


    Joss Whedon made his name directing cult television shows such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and big-budget action movies, which often featured women in empowering roles. Many applauded him for being a champion of women, a feminist in an industry accused of misogyny and sexism.

    Joss Whedon at the screening of "Much Ado About Nothing" in 2014. Whedon's ex-wife Kai Cole alleged in an essay published by The Wrap on Sunday that Whedon had multiple affairs during their 16-year marriage. (Associated Press)
  3. Pasco school's parents, principal seek compromise on behavior plan


    Leaders of a Pasco County elementary school that has come under criticism for its new behavior plan have offered an alternative model that sticks to its goals while also better considering younger children who might not understand the original terminology.

    This is the revised discipline chart that Deer Park Elementary is working on.
  4. Jon Gruden, Rex Ryan meet with Jameis Winston on 'Hard Knocks'


    One of the interesting guest stars on HBO's "Hard Knocks", which covers every minute of the Bucs' training camp and preseason, has been Jon Gruden. The legendary former Tampa Bay coach has popped up from time …

    In a teaser clip from episode 3 of "Hard Knocks", Jon Gruden and fellow former coach Rex Ryan meet with Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston to discuss his past and future in the NFL. [HBO/NFL FILMS]
  5. German police seize thousands of 'Trump' ecstasy tablets


    BERLIN — German police say they have seized thousands of tablets of the party drug ecstasy in the shape of Donald Trump's head, a haul with an estimated street value of 39,000 euros ($45,900.)

    This undated  picture provided by Polizeiinspektion Osnabrueck police shows an ecstasy pill. German police say they have seized thousands of ecstasy pills in the shape of President Donald Trump's head, a haul  with an estimated street value of 39,000 euros ($45,900). Police in Osnabrueck, in northwestern Germany, say they found the drugs during a check Saturday evening on an Austrian-registered car on the A30 highway. [Police Osnabrueck via AP]