A proposed ordinance to implement a marriage provision in the Pine Bluff Police Pension Fund will be considered by the City Council when they meet at 5:30 p.m. Monday. At a meeting of the council’s Ways and Means Committee Tuesday, Finance Director Steve Miller said the proposal would add survivor benefits to the wives of eight retired officers who married after they left the department.
The officers were among those who were covered under the department’s former plan, which later merged with the Arkansas Local Police and Fire Retirement System.
The benefits would apply to the wives of eight officers, all of whom married on or before Dec. 31, 2016, and who remain married for at least five years before their husband dies. Those wives would be able to receive the benefits their husbands had been receiving at the time of his death.
According to documents provided by Miller, the city will pay $455,306 to subsidize the plan next year, and the spousal benefits would add another $66.564, bringing the city’s liability to $521,870. He said the city has asked the Arkansas General Assembly to consider raising the millage cap to allow for new money to go into the fund, but they have to be submitted to voters. The Arkansas Municipal League has turned down the request of Pine Bluff and other cities to place an initiated act on the ballot.
Because the old retirement fund was closed out, no new money is going into it. Miller said the unfunded liability is continuing to increase.
“We’re going to have to solve this problem ourselves,” he said. “We’re not going to get any help from the state.”
One of the retired officers who would be affected is Kenny Heroman, who retired in 1999 and married in 2009.
“I want to be able to take care of my wife just like those officers who married before they retired,” he said.
Another retired officer, Lee Hurd, who married before retiring, said that the proposal excludes 10 other officers who married after the Dec. 31, 2016, deadline.
“This was not the city of Pine Bluff’s fault,” Heroman said. “When they stopped bringing people into the plan, they knew the money was going to be short. It’s the legislature’s fault when they stopped having new officers come into the old plan.”
Another document provided by Miller showed that the average age of the eight officers whose wives would be affected is 66.8 years. Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Brumett signed off as a sponsor so that the council can consider the measure. Miller said the proposed ordinance will need to be read three times and voted on Monday to avoid having to have another actuarial survey done.