Among the issues facing the Denison Fire Rescue’s strain on resources with a depleted workforce comes the drain on its pension fund. The Denison Firemen’s Relief and Retirement Fund board met on Thursday to discuss matters related to the fund.
According to a report issued at the May meeting, financial services representatives handling the fund show there have not been any deposits made into the investment portfolio for some time. Despite that, the fund continues to grow based on a combination of interest collected and dividends paid from the investments.
At that meeting Denison Mayor Janet Gott raised concerns about the health of the fund and the amortization period it takes for a firefighter to pay into the fund before their benefits being fully funded.
Her question was answered by pension board chairman Keith Bates who said even if the department was fully staffed it would not be bringing in enough funds to cover the expenses. He said he doesn’t currently have estimates on what it would take to get to that point, but the funds in the portfolio are enough to cover the difference from expenses.
Bates also said even at full staff the fund would not have excess funds to contribute towards the purchase of additional investment assets, and Bates didn’t know what it would take to get to that point at this time.
He said once the department is fully staffed and a new actuary is hired he will have a better picture.
The Denison firemen’s pension fund works like other retirement funds. When a firefighter has a portion withheld from each paycheck received, and the city matches that portion. The funds then go into a bank account, and the money in that account is used to pay out the benefits to the firefighters who receive funds from the pension.
Bates said there is not enough money currently coming in to cover those costs so the pension draws from the Denison Fire portfolio. Those funds come from dividends and interest earned from the fund’s investments, and that is why Bates said the pension is healthy largely because the initial investments were successful.
At the Thursday meeting Wright said the fund is doing well because of the strong economy, and the portfolio’s assets are diverse and strong enough that the fund has recovered some ground from market losses despite the market as a whole not being as strong.
As for the immediate future, Bates said
And in comparison to other markets of similar size, Bates said the only cause for concern is keeping an eye on the ongoing trade dispute between President Donald Trump and China, and the managers of the fund are keeping a close watch on the way Trump handles those negotiations.
Denison City Manager Jud Rex said the city has confidence in its pension systems.
“The city of Denison feels all of its pension systems are healthy,” Rex said. “Everything we hear is both funds are extremely healthy and we have no concerns.
Richard A. Todd is the Denison area reporter. He can be reached at RTodd@HeraldDemocrat.com.