County: Ballot measure confusing
Published 5:26 pm Monday, October 30, 2006
By By Kerry Whipple Bean – publisher
Escambia County officials have realized that a measure on the Nov. 7 ballot isn't quite what they thought.
A local amendment that would eliminate the supernumerary system for county officials would save the county money - but could also allow county commissioners to take part in the state retirement system, a privilege they were not seeking.
The problem seems to be in the wording of the bill, which does not specifically include or exclude commissioners from taking part in the retirement system. They previously were not allowed to do so.
Forty counties in Alabama allow commissioners to take part in the retirement system. Sanks said Escambia County commissioners did not realize the amendment could be interpreted that way and want the public to know that they were not trying to deceive the voters about the bill.
Commissioners did not seek passage of the bill authorizing the amendment; it was sponsored by state Sen. Pat Lindsey at the request of Brewton Mayor Ted Jennings, Sanks said.
The bill allows mayors to take part in the retirement system.
Many commissioners would probably not opt into the program, Sanks said.
While including commissioners might not necessarily be a problem for the county - it would cost a minimal amount of money - commissioners wanted the public to know they had not requested the change and did not intend to misinform the public, Sanks said.
County officials have supported phasing out the supernumerary system, which allows certain retired county officials, including the sheriff, to receive a portion of their salaries as a retirement benefit.
Phasing out the program would save at least $135,000 per year for the county.
The wording in the bill is vague. Part of the bill reads: “No person may participate in both a supernumerary program and the Employees' Retirement System based on the same service. For the purposes of this amendment, the words “elected or appointed Escambia County official” include, subject only to express limitation, any person holding an office that entitles that person to participate in a supernumerary program or any person appointed to serve the remaining term of an elected or appointed Escambia County official. The words do not include a judge, district attorney, legislator, constable, school board member or any official elected from a judicial circuit.”