CLEWISTON -- The Clewiston Board of Commissioners held a special meeting Sept. 7 for the first reading of a firefighter pension levying ordinance to provide funding for the creation of a Municipal Firefighters Pension Trust Fund.
This is the first step in the process to establish the trust fund.
Mayor Kristine Petersen said this is a tax that’s been paid historically to the state of Florida. The ordinance would allow the city to tax the same amount levied by the state on property insurance companies within the city limits.
“What we’re doing in this instance is moving forward to collecting our fair share of the gains,” she said.
Clewiston Fire Chief Travis Reese said the city will impose a 1.85% tax on gross amounts of receipts of property insurance premiums paid by policy holders which will go directly to the state, which will then remit the money to Clewiston.
“It’s not an additional tax on the community, not on any citizen,” Reese said. “It is a tax collected statewide and the city is imposing the same percentage rate.”
More than 350 cities and special districts already do this, he said.
“So, we’re raising our hand saying we’d like to collect that money.”
Reese estimated the city might collect anywhere from $50,000 to $80,000, however the funds might not be disbursed to Clewiston until August 2022, and then be paid out annually thereafter each July.
To maximize the funding, staff and management are researching the possibility of doing the same things within the portions of the East Hendry Fire District which is serviced by the Clewiston Volunteer Fire Department.
Once the ordinance is approved and filed with the pension office, the next steps involve enrolling participating employees, creating a board of trustees to meet at least quarterly each year and establish a checking account specifically for the firefighters’ fund and file annual reports to the Division of Retirement.
Florida statute requires normal retirement for firefighters at age 55, with 10 years of service, or age 52 and 25 years as a retirement fund member.
“If you adopt the ordinance … funds will be restricted and can’t be used for anything else,” Reese said. “If the funds come from the state, we’ll have to put it towards this or return it, I assume.”
A public hearing and vote for adoption is scheduled for Sept. 27 and if approved will become effective Oct. 1.