Pine Bluff voters apparently approved tax millage increases that will enhance the pension funds for retired police officers and firefighters.

Ed.'s Note at 3 p.m. Wednesday (with 100 percent) precincts reporting — Both millages were approved by voters. Police Pension: 3,921 For/2,575 Against. Fire Pension: 3,757 For/2,831 Agaist.

•••

Pine Bluff voters apparently approved tax millage increases that will enhance the pension funds for retired police officers and firefighters.

The returns from Tuesday’s special election are unofficial. With 94 of 112 precincts reporting, results show:

• The measure to benefit police officers was accepted by 3,169 to 2,413, a percentage difference of 57 to 43.

• The measure supporting fire fighters was approved by 3,302 to 2,196, a percentage difference of 60 to 40.

Both pension funds will be raised by two one-hundredths of a cent for each fund, raising the rate to one mill. The increase will cost the owner of a home with an assessed value of $75,000 a total of $6 more per year than what they’re currently paying.

The police pension fund was created in 1941 and the fireman’s pension fund was created in 1947. In 1983, the state created a statewide pension fund for police and firefighters, but those who served before then are paid only by the city’s funds, which are being depleted.

“I’m delighted and very thankful to the people of Pine Bluff,” retired Fire Chief Eddie Lunsford said late Tuesday night. “They saw that we had a need and they came through for us. That makes us feel good.”

According to Pine Bluff Finance Director Miller, the Arkansas Pension Review Board projects that the fireman’s pension fund would have been insolvent and unable to pay benefits in under 10 years, and the police pension fund was also declining in value. Pine Bluff is not alone in that situation as Miller said other cities are also facing the problem.

Additionally, Mayor Carl A. Redus Jr. had pointed out that federal law does not allow those retired police and firefighters to receive Social Security because they are covered by local pension plans and any Social Security they receive would be the result of having worked other jobs.

Currently, there are 79 retired police officers or their surviving spouses receiving checks from the police pension fund and 73 retired firefighters or their surviving spouses receiving checks from the firemen’s pension fund.

“This is just a bandage,” Lunsford said of the millage increase. “It won’t take care of our total crisis, but it shows the state we’re willing to make something happen on our own. No one will help you if you’re not willing to help yourself. We’ll be asking the state to help us.”

Lunsford said he and retired police Captain Lee Hurd wanted to express their appreciation to Redus, the city council and assorted civic groups for their promotion and support of the measures.