Written by Daniel Offner Wednesday, 02 April 2014 00:00
Members of the South Farmingdale Fire District Board of Fire Commissioners recently voted to hold a special referendum on June 3, making the volunteer fire department the first on Long Island to let voters decide whether the district can redefine its existing Length Of Service Award Program [LOSAP] benefits for volunteer firefighters.
According to South Farmingdale Fire Commissioner Thomas Mastakouris, the referendum looks to change the existing LOSAP program from a defined benefit to a defined contribution rate, while freezing LOSAP service credits for existing volunteers.
“This would save [district] taxpayers hundreds of thousands while not taking away from our volunteers,” Mastakouris said.
In a release, fire department officials said that under the district’s current “defined benefit” program, a volunteer becomes eligible to receive LOSAP payments at age 62, at which point they can collect $20 a month for each year of service. The maximum benefit a volunteer can earn is $600 per month after earning 30 years of service credit.
In June, voters will determine if the district can change its volunteer benefit, effective Jan. 2015, to allow up to $700 a year to be contributed into an account for firefighters who are egible—at age 62—to collect LOSAP awards. Contributions will be invested and will grow with added interest.
“Everybody comes out a winner,” Mastakouris said, stressing that the “sins of the past” are not going to be taken out on the newest generation of volunteer firefighters.
The ‘sins’ Mastakouris refers to occurred in 2011, when a state appellate court found that a former South Farmingdale Fire Commissioner had wrongfully collected LOSAP benefits. Since that time, the South Farmingdale Fire District has elected a new board, lowered department spending, and has even gone up from a A1 bond rating to Aa3, according to Moody’s International Investment firm.
Although the South Farmingdale Fire District currently estimates spending $160,000 towards LOSAP awards this year, officials say that proposal to switch to a “defined contribution” plan will only cost the district $50,000 a year—$110,000 less than the current projections.
Mastakouris adds that the South Farmingdale Fire District anticipates immediate savings as a result of the referendum, which the department may use to purchase a new ladder truck in the future.