Sun City fire board mulls PSPRS solutions

Liability expected to continue climbing

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Sun City Fire District board members will consider a number of options to try and ease the financial burden of its pension liability.

Tim Wilmes, SCFD board member, told his colleagues during the board’s Feb. 11 meeting, the unfunded liability for the Public Safety Personnel Retirement System  will continue to climb. Mr. Wilmes has been in the past months representing the district in PSPRS and other pension agency conferences and meeting with PSPRS officials.

“During the last conference, they (PSPRS officials) flat out said the liability will continue to go up,” he said.

Mr. Wilmes said in discussion with the district’s accounting firm, he was told the district’s liability increased $1.1 million in the past five years.

“If that trend continues, we’ll be seeing an increase of $1.1 million — or more — in the next five years,” he said.

Other board members did not hide their frustration with the escalating costs.

“I am disappointed and frustrated that it has been three years and they have not found a solution yet,” said Walter Link.

Dave Scott, fire board chairman, agreed.

“We need to get this resolved and do it quickly,” he said.

The Sun City district is not alone with the ever increasing pension costs. All public safety districts and municipal agencies are facing the same issue.

There are things Sun City Fire District officials can do to try and ease their own financial burden.

Mr. Wilmes suggested the board use end-of-year rollover funds to stock a PSPRS reserve fund. He suggests using 50% of any rollover for the fund. In addition, once the reserve has built up over a few years, he suggests using the fund to make an added $500,000 payment to Sun City’s unfunded liability. He also suggested using any tax share monies or tax refunds for the reserve account.

Mr. Wilmes also suggested a public safety tax be sought to be designated for the PSPRS liability. He also believes district officials should approach state lawmakers to increase the tax rate cap from $3.25.

“But I think getting the rate cap increased would be next to impossible,” Mr. Scott said.

Mr. Wilmes also suggested establishing a county tax designated for the PSPRS reserve.

“We should also get the fire and police unions to support us in our efforts with legislators,” Mr. Wilmes said.

State officials are considering a split for a marijuana tax that would send one-third collected to the PSPRS, another third to education and the final third to human resources, according to Mr. Wilmes.

“But that’s not final,” he added. “Plus, that would go to PSPRS and we wouldn’t have any say in what they do with it.”

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