Parkersburg City Council to vote on pension measures

Final reading of fireworks ordinance on agenda

PARKERSBURG — City Council will consider closing the current police and fire pension funds to new hires and allocating funds to pay increased pension costs when it meets at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.

The agenda for Tuesday’s meeting includes six resolutions forwarded to the full council by the Finance Committee earlier this week on 4-0 votes, with Councilman Bob Mercer absent. The resolution recommending closing the police pension fund was 3-0, with Councilwoman Sharon Kuhl recusing herself since her husband is retired from the Police Department.

Council will also consider the final reading of an ordinance lifting the city’s ban on fireworks for most of the day on July Fourth, as well as 9-11 p.m. July 2-3 and 9 p.m. Dec. 31 to 12:30 a.m. Jan. 1.

In 1991, the city opted to move to an alternative pension funding method that initially saved money but required the payments to increase by 7 percent each year. The amount budgeted for the current fiscal year is about $4.5 million, and it will grow to nearly $8 million in 10 years.

State law allows the city to change its payment method if it closes the current police and fire pension plans to new hires. Current employees, retirees and beneficiaries would maintain their benefits, while future employees would become part of the Municipal Police Officers and Firefighters’ Retirement System, under the West Virginia Consolidated Public Retirement Board, which offers somewhat reduced benefits and lower costs to the city and workers alike.

But the city must also increase its payments in order to amortize the unfunded liability of the pension funds. Though the annual amount is expected to gradually decrease in the future, for the current year nearly $2.3 million is required to be paid by June 30, 2018.

The third resolution on Tuesday’s agenda addresses that, with the administration’s proposal to use $1,068,204 of the more than $2 million fund balance from the 2016-17 fiscal year, which ended June 30; the full $957,559 in the city’s stabilization fund and $256,963 from the capital reserve fund, which has a balance of $923,605.

Going forward, the increased payments will need to be addressed by increased revenue, spending cuts possibly including staff reductions or a combination of the two, city officials have said.

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Council Agenda

* Resolutions closing the existing police and fire pension funds to new hires.

* Resolution allocating $1,068,204 from the fiscal year 2017 fund balance, $957,559 from the stabilization fund and $256,963 from the capital reserve fund toward the current fiscal year’s additional pension contribution upon closure of the current plans.

* Resolution allocating $457,703 of the unencumbered fund balance from fiscal year 2017 to pay contracts and projects started before that year ended June 30 and for which the city is still obligated.

* Resolution reducing the budgeted balance of the user fee fund by $121,429 because more paving than anticipated was completed prior to June 30. It does not change the amount of money spent on the project.

* Resolution increasing the budget for the Memorial * fund by $126,623 to account for purchase orders issued for deck overlay and toll booth replacement, projects that were not completed until after the start of fiscal year 2018.

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