Now this is how civics is supposed to work.
Two polite, intrepid citizens got Rep. Melony Bell, R-Fort Meade, on the record about the $9 million FRS heist from the people of Polk County and her vote to support it. I’ll reprint the entire statement in a moment. Full background on the FRS Heist here. But, at a high level, here are the two key points:
- Bell ties the FRS increase directly to the Legislature’s gimmick of raising minimum teacher salaries to $47,000. She claims the state is required to take back half of that money in pension contributions. I’m not kidding. Here’s one direct quote: “The Bottom line is with salary raises comes increased retirement benefits, and that’s the district’s responsibility.” In Polk, we got $18 million for the $47,000 gimmick. The forced FRS contribution takes back $9 million. I was not aware of this “take-back-half” law. Thus, Bell and state government are not just excluding bus drivers, paras, custodians, deans, assistant principals, principals, and veteran teachers from their pay gimmick, they are forcing them to pay for half of it.
- Bell also seems to hint that DeSantis could veto the FRS Heist. So it’s all the more important now to follow up and ask she actively supports the veto. It’s also important that your local elected school board speak clearly to Bell and the governor about vetoing or rescinding it. But to my knowledge, School Board Chair Lori Cunningham and the superintendent are still refusing to put my “Veto-the-FRS heist” resolution on the agenda for a vote at Tuesday’s meeting because that would require public comment, which they don’t want.
Here is the full statement from Bell’s office. Thanks to the citizens who forced her to put this on record. Citizenship is a beautiful thing. Note the part that I have bolded below. Seems to scream, “please veto this governor, and get me off the hook.” But let’s try to get a yes or no from her to confirm it:
Thank you for writing to Representative Melony Bell regarding your concerns.
The Florida Retirement System (FRS) is a multiple-employer, contributory plan that provides retirement income benefits for employees of the state and county government agencies, district school boards, state colleges, and universities and it also serves as the retirement plan for participating employees of the cities and independent hospitals and special districts that have elected to join the system.
HB 5007 and the Senate companion, SB 7044 Passed both chambers on Feb. 13th, 2020. The House had only 5 No’s and the Senate passed with full support. Filed by Rep. Cummings and the Appropriations Committee – Current law requires an annual actuarial valuation of the FRS be completed with results provided to the Legislature by December 31. The Legislature uses the results of the valuation to establish uniform employer contribution rates during the legislative Session to ensure the FRS is funded in a sound actuarial manner. HB 5007 revises the employer contribution rates effective July 1, 2020. There is no statutory requirement that any increase in the FRS employer contribution must be funded by the state.
HB 5007 is subject to the Governor’s veto powers, the effective date of this bill is July 1, 2020.
There was also a change in the Florida Education Finance Program (FEFP) funding this past session for FY 20-21 with $18 Million allocated for teacher salary and other instructional personnel, $146.86 increase in per student funding, $1 Million allocated for mental health with a total FEFP funding increase of $34 Million statewide.
The Bottom line is with salary raises comes increased retirement benefits, and that’s the district’s responsibility.