59% Of Providence Fire Pensions are “Disability”
Accidental disability pensions awarded to Providence firefighters will account for more than half the $29 million the department spends on pension payments this year, according to an analysis of payroll records by WPRI.com.
City records show 438 firefighters or their families got a taxpayer-funded pension payment in January, the most recent month for which figures are available, and 258 of those were classified as accidental disability pensions – which are not taxed.
That’s quite a disability rate.
Disability pensions for former firefighters will cost the city $15.5 million in 2011 if all those payments continue for the rest of the year. That’s more than the total for every other category.
Regular fire pensions will cost $8.7 million, followed by pensions for accidental disability leading to death, $2.1 million; fire widows, $1.5 million; accidental death, $942,708; court-awarded payments, $229,719; and ordinary disability, $160,056.
In the police department, by contrast, accidental disability pensions will only make up $7.1 million of the $23.2 million total bill for pensions this year, or about 30%. A total of 639 police officers or their families got pension payments in January.
As WPRI’s Ted Nesi reports, new Providence Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare will be taking a look at pension costs and other areas to cut costs.
Many of us are grateful for the job our firefighters do and do not begrudge them the salary and benefits they are paid for being willing to put their life on the line. But these stories undermine the accrued goodwill. There really can be no doubt that there is fraud going on here and that wink-and-a-nod, retire-on-disability scenarios are happening. Firefighters need to realize (or more of them, anyway) that it is not OK to look the other way when somebody just happens to slip and fall on the day before his retirement. Let’s hope Commissioner Pare cleans up the firehouse for the sake of the taxpayers and for the good men and women of the Providence Fire Department who play it straight.