FDNY firefighters pension fund on shaky ground as payouts dip

| New York Daily News

FDNY firefighters pension payouts have cooled off a bit over the last year — but the fund’s long term prognosis is still shaky, according to a report released Thursday.

Of the 420 firefighters and officers who retired in 2016, nearly two-thirds (264) were eligible for pensions worth more than $100,000, the Empire Center said in an analysis posted on its website.

That’s three in five FDNY retirees for 2016, the Albany-based think tank said.

 Seventeen of the 420 retirees had pensions over $200,000, with one firefighter eligible for a $272,530 annual pension, according to the Empire Center.
But overall, the pensions for 2016 were down a bit from the prior year.

The average payout this year is $117,914 compared to $120,799 in 2015, the report found.

The small dip might be because of a slow down in the number of firefighters claiming three-quarter disability pensions, the Empire Center said.

But overall, the FDNY pension system is still in trouble, the non-profit reported.

There are 15,606 FDNY retirees currently — and the number of six-figure pensions has risen by 20% since 2011, the Empire Center said.

That year, 1.267 retirees had six-figure pensions; now the number is 3,184.

And 102 FDNY retirees are eligible for pensions over $200,000, the report said.

The FDNY’s retirement system is “financially the least robust” of all the city’s municipal funds, the Empire Center said.

It had a net liability of $8.9 billion in 2016, according to the report.

Empire Center research director E.J. McMahon said part of the FDNY’s pension fund’s fiscal challenges stems from an unexpected wave of 9/11-related disability retirements.

“The FDNY fund didn’t anticipate the surge of disability pensions it was going to get and while dealing with that, it also had to contend with the economic recession that hurt the market,” McMahon said.

The FDNY’s steepest expenses were likely in the past, he added.

“We’re not maintaining a value judgment on any individual in the FDNY. City pension expenses overall are very high,” he said. “We’re within a few years of hitting $10 billion,which would have been unthinkable in the recent past.”

Steve Cassidy, executive director of the city’s Fire Pension Fund, said overtime related to a contentious discrimination lawsuit filed against the department in 2007 was to blame for pumped-up pension payouts.

“Much of the increase in pensions is a direct result of Judge Nicholas Garaufis’ decision to freeze hiring several years ago, which required the department to dramatically increase overtime for its members,” Cassidy said.

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