As talks about how to sustain Denison Fire Rescue continue, the Denison Firemen’s Pension Board held a meeting Thursday to discuss the health of the program. In a report presented at the meeting, consulting actuary John Crider said the fund remains healthy despite the lowered workforce.
Then in a back and forth exchange between Crider and Denison Mayor Janet Gott, Crider explained even if the city had gone through with the plan to outsource the city’s EMS, the pension fund would still had been in good shape.
“John, you kind of told us it was going to be Armageddon is actually what you did,” Gott said, in reference to the impact on the fund.Crider said the city is currently at a 15.8-year amortization period, which is the amount of time a fireman has to pay into the fund to pay for his or her own retirement. Crider said a lower number is better and that the city is in excellent shape even with the lower number of people paying into the fund.Denison Fire has lost 10 people this year, and the department sits at 12 vacancies out of a total of 54 positions.
During Thursday’s meeting, Gott said the city had officially decided not to pursue outsourcing EMS and asked what shape the fund was in with that news.
“Had the reduction been implemented, the plan was fully capable of continuing to provide benefits, forever in perpetuity,” Crider said.
Gott said that news should be encouraging to the city’s current fire rescue team and she reiterated the city had decided not to proceed with outsourcing and was going to continue to provide the level of service the city’s residents have come to expect.
“The point I need to make, if nothing were done at all, you still have a plan with strong savings,” Crider said.
Crider said the pension fund could have crept to a 21.1-year amortization period, if the city had reduced its staff according to the outsourcing plan. But if the city continues with the current staffing levels, which it would have under the outsourcing plan, eventually the city could have gotten closer to a 25-year or 30-year period. He said if that happened and the city didn’t do something about it, it would be getting closer to 40 years which he said would have been a catastrophe for the city.
In order to maintain the lower levels, had the outsourcing moved forward, or if the staffing levels do not increase, Crider said it would cost the city a little over a million dollars, or a matching increase of 3.6 percent from the city’s contribution to the fund.
Denison Finance and Administrative Services Director Renee’ Waggoner said the report showed the city the pension fund is in good health.
She also said the city’s amortization period had been as high as 27.1 years in 2015 and 29.1 years in 2013.
“Your optimum is between 15 and 25 years,” Waggoner said. “The report showed we are at 15.8. The state never wants you to go over 40 years. Once you get over 40 years you have to go to the state to provide a plan to get it reduced.”
The city joined the pension fund in 1941.
Richard A. Todd is the Denison Area Reporter. He can be reached at RTodd@HeraldDemocrat.com.