Proposal would transfer fire, police pensions to state system

An ordinance that would transfer administration of city pension and relief fund coverage for eligible police and firefighters to the Arkansas Local Police and Fire Retirement System is scheduled to be introduced at Monday’s 5:30 p.m. Pine Bluff City Council meeting at the civic center.

The measure, sponsored by senior Alderman Bill Brumett, would authorize Simmons First National Bank — the chief administrator of the municipal account — to enter into an irrevocable agreement with LOPFI, but the transfer would not extend to a change in the local pension fund’s benefit program unless an increase is approved by the city.

An earlier version of the proposal was pulled from the agenda of a previous council meeting after city Finance Director Steve Miller announced that LOPFI Executive Director David Clark would be meeting with the body’s ways and means committee to discuss particulars. The committee — which is chaired by Brumett and also includes Alderman Wayne Easterly and Alderwoman Thelma Walker — has since met with Clark.

In a May 2012 special election, Pine Bluff voters approved a millage rate increase to a full mill for pension funds of retired and disabled police officers and firefighters, but officials stressed that the decision was only a temporary fix and more would need to be done to reinforce the account. The city was advised in late 2011 that its firefighters pension fund, which was established in 1947, was projected to become insolvent within a decade.

In November 2012, state voters rejected a call to enable municipalities and county governments to issue bonds to help roll over police and fire pension plans to the LOPFI.

LOPFI is a statewide system for paid and volunteer police officers and firefighters. Created by the Arkansas General Assembly in 1981 and operating since 1983, LOPFI is overseen by a seven-member board of trustees. Each member is appointed by the governor. An executive director is appointed by the board and administers the system in a manner consistent with law and board policy.

Before 1983, local governments managed pension funds for their uniformed public safety employees. New hires have been required to join LOPFI.