10 News Investigators discover million-dollar computer glitch will cost Tampa cops and firefighters

6:19 PM, Oct 2, 2013   |    comments
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Tampa, Florida -- It's a million-dollar screw-up by the City of Tampa and it affects police officers who worked overtime.

Somehow, the City didn't make the proper deductions and contributions to the Police and Fire Pension Fund for more than a year.

It all started last year when the Republican National Convention was in town. The City made an adjustment to the payroll computer system because of the huge amount of overtime the first responders were expected to work. 

The Pension Fund counts up to 300 hours of overtime each year toward first responder pension benefits. Both the City and employees contribute to the pension fund.

Sources say that Tampa Police officers and firefighters who have worked overtime since the RNC are in a slight panic. That's because of the glitch caused by the City tweaking its computer program and not deducting the proper amount from their checks. It means some 1,370 police officers and firefighters will have to come up with money for the Pension Fund.

It would be the same as if your company didn't deduct your insurance payments for a year and then said you had to make up the payments because of a computer error.

When the Pension board discovered the error it sent out the following email to trustees of the pension plan:

"After meeting with multiple City personnel from various departments, we have concluded that the employee contributions were underpaid for this past fiscal year and that in turn caused the City contributions to be underpaid as well. Simply put, there was a programming error that T&I is still diagnosing, but it caused contributions on overtime earnings to be withheld improperly or not at all. 

At this point, it appears that those affected are only plan members with any overtime earnings during the fiscal year, which equates to approximately 80% of the plan members.

The underpayments per person range from a few dollars to almost $3,000, with the majority being less than $500."

Tampa's Chief Financial Officer Sonja Little explains, "The computer was calculating the employee made the contribution two times so when it went to adjust for future payments it did not take enough because it thought the computer thought the employee had already made the payment."

Little says the City thinks it has fixed the problem and is testing the fix. It is manually computing the pension contributions of a sample of 70 first responders in an Excel spreadsheet and seeing if it comes up with the same number as the computer. Little says doing by hand in Excel is a tedious task and it might not be completed until next week.

The City owes the pension fund almost $600,000, the police and firefighters owe almost $450,000. Some of the first responders have to pay back almost $3,000 others less than 500. The City is trying to work out a payment plan.

First responders contribute about 11 percent of their salary to the Pension Fund, the city puts in $1.34 for every $1.00 the Police and Firefighters put into the fund.

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