A 2019 state Supreme Judicial Court ruling had a disastrous impact on the retirement benefits of many firefighters who spent years listed as reserve firefighters. Last Monday night, the City Council voted unanimously to support a Home Rule Petition to the state legislature that would return service time that was lost because of the ruling to 65 Revere firefighters.
“During that ruling that took place, the creditable service that was granted for time on Revere’s reserve list was reduced back 10 years to June 30, 2009,” said Lt. Kevin O’Hara, president of Revere Firefighters Local 926. “Which means for the past 10 years, members made important life and financial decisions based on the belief that they had earned this service time counting towards their retirement.”
Some firefighters lost as much as five years of their service time counting towards maximum retirement benefits based on the court ruling, and what O’Hara said was a misinterpretation of that decision in a memo issued by the state’s Public Employee Retirement Administration Commission. “It also increases the chances of getting career-ending disabilities, such as heart and lung disease, cancer, behavioral issues, and injuries,” said O’Hara.
Passage of the special legislation would bring the firefighters a step closer to reinstating the reserve time for any member who lost it from June 30, 2009, to Feb. 11, 2020.
The Revere Retirement Board voted 3-1 in favor of the Home Rule Petition earlier this summer, according to Richard Viscay, the chair of the Retirement Board and the city’s finance director. A consultant retained by the Retirement Board estimated that the effect of the added service on the present value of future benefits would be $1.7 million, according to Viscay.
“The effect of the additional service was projected by performing an actuarial valuation of the affected members with the amount of credited service they had as of 12/31/2020 and another valuation where the additional years of service were applied,” stated Lawrence Stone of Stone Consulting in a letter to the Retirement Board.
The special legislation was approved by the council’s Ways and Means Subcommittee prior to a unanimous vote by the full council on Monday evening.
Ward 6 Councillor Richard Serino, speaking at the subcommittee meeting, asked O’Hara to clarify that the $1.7 million figure is money that was previously appropriated for the retirement benefits. “This isn’t extra money that is being appropriated,” O’Hara said. “This is money that is sitting there waiting for the firefighters.”
Several dozen firefighters were on hand to witness the vote and support O’Hara, rising to applaud the council as the final vote was cast. Several of the firefighters thanked the councillors individually during a short recess after the vote.