Nashville Police Department leaders have decided not to push for a change to their benefits package this year that they believed could help retain staff.

Chief Ben Seastrom said the decision was made not to pursue an earlier request he made to the town council since it’s “getting down to crunch time” to make the change before the end of the year.

He said he may be back in the spring to ask again if the council would support switching police officers into the 1977 Police Officers’ and Firefighters’ Pension and Disability Fund under the Indiana Public Employee Retirement System.

It pays retirement benefits at a greater rate than the general INPRS fund, which officers and other town employees are in now.

Seastrom said there were still unanswered questions about the impact on the town of entering the fund.

In the past 18 months, the Nashville Police Department has lost four of its six full-time officers to departments with better pay and benefits, Assistant Chief Tim True said.

Now, the town pays 14.2 percent of the officers’ base salary toward retirement — including a 3-percent employee match — and the officers pay 3 percent, Nashville Clerk-Treasurer Brenda Young said. Under the 1977 fund, those percentages would be 17.5 for employer and 6 percent for employee.

In order to get officers switched over, the town council had choices to make.

It could start fresh in the 1977 fund, starting all officers’ years of service at zero and owing no upfront lump-sum payment.

It could choose to “buy back” years of service for the two officers with more than a year on the job. It could pick up the employer contribution part, $63,948, the difference between what the town did pay during those years and what it would have paid if it were participating in the other fund during that time; and require the officers, Seastrom and True, to pay their shares.

Or it could pick up the entire bill, including the officers’ shares, for $83,731.

The council wasn’t sure if that was possible financially, or if it was a good precedent to be setting in fairness to all town employees.

Any “buy-back” money would be due immediately upon enrollment, Seastrom said.

The Nashville Metropolitan Police Commission — which oversees officers’ hiring and discipline — met in September to talk fundraising ideas to help the officers make their buy-back payment — about $13,000 for Seastrom and more than $6,000 for True. Starting a GoFundMe page was one idea.

Without the town agreeing to a buy-back, Seastrom said he and True would have to work 20 years from the date of the town’s enrollment in the program to receive full retirement benefits — and Seastrom, 40, said he didn’t think he had that in him.

Delaying a decision means that when the officers ask the town council next year, the council will have all six officers eligible for enrollment in the fund and for buy-back years instead of just two officers, Seastrom said.

He said he would like to get officers enrolled in time for the new benefit structure to start in 2018.

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Sara Clifford has been raising a family in Brown County since 2005 and leading the Brown County Democrat since late 2009. In addition to editor, she is the beat reporter for town government and writes columns, features and general news stories.