Police recommend raising retirement age

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — It’s a proposal that gives Fort Wayne officers 10 more years on the force — and allows others to continue working without breaking the law.

Fort Wayne city code states that officers must retire by age 60. Last April, 15 Finds Out discovered at least eight officers over that age.

Now, public safety leaders have proposed an amendment that would raise the mandatory retirement age from 60 to 70.

“We were able to sit down quickly and get it resolved once we identified a problem,” said Tim Selvia, vice president of FWPD’s Labor Council. “The last time we had communication with the Public Employee Retirement Fund (PERF), it was that we had to follow our mandatory retirement age. And if we did not there would be a penalty to pay.”

That penalty involves DROP Benefits, a popular retirement plan for officers. State law says if an officer violates the mandatory retirement age, he or she can’t participate in the plan.

“We definitely didn’t want any of our members to pay a penalty for working past the 60,” Selvia said.

The Deferred Retirement Option Plan (DROP) allows officers to pick a retirement date three years out. From that point on, three-years’-worth of pension money goes into a separate fund. On the day they retire, officers can collect that fund up-front in a lump sum.

The DROP is a popular retirement plan for Fort Wayne officers. It allows officers to collect three years-worth of pension money in a lump sum the day they retire.

The DROP is a popular retirement plan for Fort Wayne officers. It allows officers to collect three years-worth of pension money in a lump sum the day they retire.

“Depending upon their age it could probably range anywhere from $75,000 at a minimum to well over $100,000,” said Jim Neddeff with the Indiana Public Retirement System. “With the money they get, after they pay taxes on it, they can pay their mortgage off, basically get themselves completely out of debt.”

In April, one of the violating officers was in his 70’s and another in his 80’s. The latter has retired. According to Jon Bonar, president of the Patrolman’s Benevolent Association, the officer in his 70’s will be asked to retire by the end of the year, should the amendment pass.

Public Safety Director Rusty York said the motivation for the new retirement age isn’t pension benefits. He said the city is aligning the mandatory retirement age with current state law. The amendment required careful consideration because Fort Wayne is currently grandfathered into its own merit system. If the city makes drastic changes to public safety laws, the state could come in and force the city to adopt a model merit system.

York said the amendment is sponsored by Councilman Marty Bender, who also happens to be one of the officers over the age of 60. It will be introduced in city council Tuesday night.

15 Finds Out is working to see if any Fort Wayne officer has illegally collected DROP benefits over the age of 60.

http://wane.com/2015/03/20/police-recommend-raising-retirement-age/