If officials at the Ohio Police and Fire Pension Fund determine that holiday hours paid to members of the Portsmouth Fire Department — over and above holidays that are actually worked — the city could have to cough up as much a half-a-million dollars, according to Portsmouth City Manager Derek K. Allen.
While it’s still in contention, Portsmouth City Auditor Trent Williams disagrees with the estimate.
“We don’t think it’s going to be nearly that from what are estimations are at this point,” Williams said. “It’s going to be substantial, like a couple-hundred thousand dollars ($200,000). And that was kind of pre-doing any kind of calculations. It looked like it might be worse than it actually is coming out that it will be. I just don’t know yet.”
Williams said the issue is 120 hours that is paid to fire employees that is over and above the holidays that the firefighters work.
“The way we look at it is it’s a bonus,” Williams said. “If they’re already working on the holiday, the pension is being paid on that day that they are being paid for, we’re not understanding how that could be paid as pensionable wages again after it’s already paid once as pensionable wages. That’s what it comes down to.”
The issue appears to be what that pay is called in the current contract.
“It seems to us that it’s more of a bonus payment, which shouldn’t be pensionable, but now it’s being questioned and so far police and fire has determined that it may be pensionable,” Williams said.
If it is determined that the pay was pensionable, the city would have to go back and pay into the pension fund based on the hours that were cashed in over the last several years. Williams said the city is still doing calculations as to how much will be originally pensionable and the pension board will have to review it.
“This goes back to an old contract and whether holiday pay was going to be pensionable or not,” Williams said. “It’s really just too early to determine anything yet.”
How and who would make that decision?
“It would be the police and fire system, and we’re still in discussions with them about how it’s going to come out,” Williams said.
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.