This summer,Baltimore Countybrought back a program whose focus is to offer incentives to firefighters, police forces and experts, in an effort to help extend their careers and delay their retirement. Also known as the Deferred Retirement Option Program, it was created to help provide various incentives. As of now, the program only covers a specific set of hires, since it applies solely to hires that were made after July 2007.
With that caveat in mind, this new version of the program is nevertheless designed to be a great retention and recruitment tool. It can also be used as an incentive to help maintain experienced professionals on the job. First responders work very hard to ensure people are safe. They are fearless and unfailingly selfless, which is why Johnny Olszewsky Jr, the County Executive, said that they are working hard to honor these people and ensure that they enjoy great benefits.
There was previously a similar program utilized in the county, but it was ended for new hires due to cost concerns. How does this new version affect taxpayers? According to Olszewsky, it won’t cost them anything. Instead , newly hired members from teams like the Baltimore County Professional Firefighters, among others, were ok with the idea of paying more for retirement benefits, just so the new program would come to fruition. The new proposal has already been approved, thus offering better appreciation and support for vetted, experienced professionals.
While there were concerns years ago regarding how much this program would cost, the new version is very promising and it brings with it some interesting benefits. The new structure is designed to help employees contribute to the system, while also reaping great benefits. It’s unlikely to add significant pressure on the county, while still removing massive strain from hires.
According to the plan, those employees that end up staying 3 years over their retirement year will receive a drop allowance. What that means is they have 3 years of retirement benefits and also a 5% allowance interest. This can be received as a retirement plan or just in a single payment. The regular pension payments will be received as well. As a side note, police officers can retire after 25 years in the force, and firefighters after 30 years.
One thing to keep in mind is that police officers pay 1.30% from their base salary for this program, while firefighters only pay 0.78%. According to the program, the first DROP allowance will be used starting inJuly 2035 for police officers and July 2040 for police officers. The program’s revamping has been a long time coming, and it’s certainly one of those incentives a lot of people were interested in for quite some time.
Of course, there are still some officials, such as the EMS and union represented firefighters president John Sibiga, who said that their union expected to have a 25-year work requirement instead of 30 years. The staffing constraints are a bit of a challenge for them at the moment, since there are dozens of vacancies. Those vacancies can be filled in a variety of ways, such as by hiring recent retirees or bringing in retention bonuses.
One thing is certain, the DROP system is set to bring in financial stability and also longevity for various officers. The former DROP iteration did bring in some large one time payments especially for the top officers at that time. This new version is set to improve on that, while bringing in a large variety of unique benefits. It’s certainly a great step forward, and hopefully one of the many different measures to help police professionals, firefighters and other similar professionals!