Parkersburg City Council to receive pension stats

Final reading of police bonus ordinance on agenda

PARKERSBURG — The city’s annual fire and police pension fund reports are showing the effects of last year’s move by City Council to close the plans to new hires and increase payments.

The reports will be officially provided to council during its regular meeting at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Parkersburg’s Municipal Building.

Council unanimously voted to close both funds to new hires in October, a move recommended by the administration to allow the city to change the way it pays for the pensions. That took the city out of a mandated increase of 7 percent each year, which officials said would take up an increasingly larger portion of the budget until most municipal funds were consumed by personnel costs.

The new funding method raised the payments amounts immediately to begin amortizing the unfunded liability, but the expectation is those amounts will decrease in the future.

The city paid more than $6.6 million into the pension funds for the 2017-18 fiscal year, a more than $2 million increase from the previous year. The carryover from the 2016-17 fiscal year and nearly $1 million from the stabilization fund made up the difference.

To address the expense going forward, council voted 6-3 in December to approve increases of 100 percent and 95 percent to the police and fire fees, respectively. There has been some backlash over the amount of the increase, and city officials have indicated a willingness to revisit it.

The increased payments have made a difference, city Finance Director Eric Jiles said.

“We’re making a much heavier dent in that long-term liability,” he said.

That’s most evident in the police fund, where the value increased from $11,328,865.35 on July 1, 2017, to $13,668,564.64 on June 30 of this year, a rise of nearly 21 percent. From July 1, 2016, to June 30, 2017, the increase in value was 11 percent.

From July 1, 2017, to June 30, 2018, the fire pension value rose 13.1 percent, from $14,802,430.55 to $16,736,425.79. The previous year, the increase was 13.5 percent.

Jiles said the change was larger in the Police Department because that fund was further behind than the fire fund. That can be traced back to the 1990s, when the Police Department had fewer personnel than today and the Fire Department had more, he said.

Council is expected to receive and file the reports.

Also on Tuesday’s agenda is the final reading of an ordinance increasing the hiring bonus for fully certified police officers from $2,500 to $10,000 upon completion of their first year with the city. Although council debated spreading out the bonus over multiple years to address retention as well as recruitment concerns, the ordinance passed on first reading last month as presented.

Council will also consider the first readings of two ordinances referred from the Municipal Planning Commission, one abandoning an alley south of 26th Street and west of Fairview Avenue that a resident uses as a driveway and the other rezoning a portion of 2501 Dudley Ave. so that the entire parcel is zoned for business.

The latter location is the site of the former YWCA and current St. Margaret Mary Church Parish Activity Center. Westbrook Health Services plans to purchase the property and consolidate a number of its services from leased sites in the area.