Palm Beach County Commission votes Tuesday on sweeping package updating lifeguards’ pay and benefits

092516-pbc-lifeguards-3Palm Beach County commissioners on Tuesday will vote on a sweeping agreement that provides for many changes the county’s ocean rescue lifeguards have sought for years.

An agenda memo for Tuesday’s meeting contains the collective bargaining agreement which was signed Nov. 16 and later approved by the rank and file, and was obtained and detailed last month by The Palm Beach Post. County administrators and commissioners met privately before their Dec. 20 regular meeting to discuss the agreement.

The agenda memo for Tuesday’s meeting says the new package will cost the county an extra $783,702 for its first full year and $856,579 for the 2018-2019 budget year, and cost “will increase annually subject to Board approved salary increases and FRS funding requirements.” FRS is the Florida Retirement System.

Palm Beach County holds closed talks Tuesday on lifeguards’ ‘risk’ status

092516-pbc-lifeguards-3Palm Beach County ocean lifeguards’ years-long fight for “special risk” status is set to go behind closed doors Tuesday.

County administrators plan to meet with commissioners before Tuesday’s regular meeting to discuss the concept. Because it’s a form of collective bargaining, the meeting will be behind closed doors. County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay would say Wednesday only that it will cover “the staff direction we gave at previous meetings.”

The lifeguards have tried to get the county to grant them a state-permitted classification, which would nearly double the amount of their Florida Retirement System pensions and would allow them to retire earlier. The county has balked.

But in late September, commissioners directed staff to research supporting state legislation that would automatically apply “special risk” to ocean rescue guards.

Commissioners also have asked county staff to look into changing the job description for ocean rescue guards, perhaps to have them automatically declared EMTs — emergency medical technicians — which also would help the county avoid having to give back-benefits to previous lifeguards.

And the county has suggested across-the-board raises.

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