Pension Board Meeting

Texas Rep. Dan Flynn, the Chairman of the Texas House of Representatives Pensions Committee, arrives at the Galveston City Hall building for a meeting with the city’s police pension board Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018.

GALVESTON

The city’s police pension plan is ailing in part because officers can draw retirement benefits too young, the chairman of a legislative committee said this week.

The age at which Galveston police can draw benefits must be raised if the pension plan is to be sustainable, state Rep. Dan Flynn said at a meeting in Galveston.

Flynn, chairman of the House Pensions Committee, requested a meeting in Galveston about the island police department’s struggling pension plan, Mayor Jim Yarbrough said.

The age at which island police officers are eligible to draw pensions continues to be a sticking point in negotiations to bolster the pension plan after a Thursday meeting with representatives from the state legislature.

A Galveston officer can retire at age 45 with reduced benefits, or at age 50 with full retirement, after 20 years of service.

The retirement age isn’t something the police are eager to budge on, 20-year Galveston officer Sgt. John W. Courtney said.

“I am pretty frustrated because we’ve been doing what we’re supposed to do,” Courtney said. “I think we are far off on the age.”

Sen. Larry Taylor, along with Flynn’s chief of staff and state Rep. Dennis Paul, another pension committee member, also visited city hall Thursday.

The city and police pension board have been trying to reach agreement before January’s legislative session to avoid state intervention in negotiations, officials said.

All parties involved have said they’d rather come to an agreement at the local level.

“I don’t foresee this ever being solved at a state level without the two of us coming together,” pension board Chair Geoff Gainers said.

Flynn last year designed a plan to save the ailing Dallas and Houston pensions, leaving both sides to make tough changes, Flynn said.

Galveston’s police pension isn’t nearly so bad, Flynn said.

“If it’s too good to be true, it really probably is too good to be true,” Flynn said.

Yarbrough doesn’t think all the disagreements will be solved at the local level, though he’d like it to, he said.

“They’re going to do things that both the city and the pension board aren’t happy about,” Yarbrough said.

Flynn advocated for a higher retirement age, he said.

“Most people retire at 62,” Flynn said. “When you’re retiring at 50, you’re putting a major strain on the pension. I think 50 is pretty young to retire.”

The city also advocated raising the age at which police can begin drawing their pension.

“Rep. Flynn and his chief of staff made it very clear that the retirement age had to be raised,” city spokeswoman Marissa Barnett said.

The city presented an option to move the pension draw age to 55, though it was not discussed at length, Gainer said.

Where the two parties have been moving toward agreement is on a fund determined by an actuary and a supermajority vote required to change funding methods.

“Every meeting, we get a little bit closer,” Gainer said.

The city and pension board plan on more discussions next week, he said.

The two parties have been in talks for several years to repair a system with more than $30 million in unfunded liability, according to police pension board review documents.

Keri Heath: 409-683-5241; keri.heath@galvnews.com or on Twitter @HeathKeri.

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(8) comments

Ron Shelby

Is there another expensive piece to this puzzle? If they retire at 45 or 50, how is health insurance covered? They are not eligible for Medicare. Does the city have to cover it? If so, those are some of the most expensive years in healthcare costs. As you let people retire so early, you have to replace them,...so now you have two people on an employer’s health plan for 15-20 years, and you’ve more than doubled your healthcare cost.

Gary Scoggin

Great question, Ron

Geoffrey Gainer

Officers do not receive any healthcare when they retire.

Craig Fos

Unlike many employers, the city does not cover retiree health care.

Randy Chapman

These crybabies need to join the rest of the country and retire at 55 or later for full benefits. Sorry, but fewer are supporting more retirees.

George Croix

Got mixed emotions on this one.
How does the value to the employer (us) of a job done by a 50 year old Policeman with 20 years service compare to that of 20 years at a desk job like bookkeeping, or whatever. Or, can it compare?
Both provide the service hired for, but one risks life while the other risks paper cuts.
One catches criminals, and the other catches math errors.
One has to approach unknown people who may try to harm them and the others may get chewed out/fired for making clerical errors.
Should such factor in?
Should job risk level be in play when figuring retirement timelines and amounts?
Or should retirement value include the money the employee saved for or earned for the employer. If the bookkeeper's work can save or recover a million bucks, is that a better retirement reward factor than a Policeman who patrols the streets and makes traffic stops?
I dunno...I just think that basing value on a job in relation to compensation in retirement only on years of service is too much like one size fits all.
Yes, that's how almost all do it, in the name of 'fairness'....
Question is, is it REALLY fair for one's age and service to be the only criteria for retirement? Other question, how to measure value of job provided and keep office politics and 'ol boys out of it.....
For any of us, not just first responders.....

Clinton Stevens

Interesting that Mr. Flynn thinks 50 is too young to collect a benefit considering state legislators are eligible to begin collecting a pension after 12 years of service at 50 years of age.

I presume he will be drafting a bill to remedy that first?

Cary Semar

I would imagine that most people who retire young have a second career, like retired military often do. Need more information to evaluate this proposal.

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