As Chairman of the Longview Firefighters Relief and Retirement Fund, I have worked extensively for years with the Fire Pension Board and annual actuarial studies. It neither surprises me nor irritates me when residents or firefighters ask about actuarial studies and the results of those studies because they are really difficult to understand if you don’t work with them on a daily basis.
It surprises and saddens me when individuals intentionally spread false information or attempt to smear the integrity of Longview Fire Department officers and first responders who serve as volunteers on the Pension Board. The column published last Saturday by Murray Moore is, at best, a prime example of misunderstanding and, at worst, an intentional misstatement of facts to push a false narrative.
The News-Journal was kind enough to give me the opportunity to set the record straight on behalf of the Longview Fire Pension Fund. The Firefighters Pension Board meets monthly on the third Tuesday of each month at 8:30 a.m. in a public meeting which the public is welcome to attend.
Mr. Moore has not attended a meeting of the Fire Pension Board in the past 14 years since I started serving on the board in 2007. As chairman of the board, he does not m ever contacted me to ask questions or address any of the concerns he claims to have. to have.
After being elected mayor of Longview in May 2003, Mr Moore announced his resignation in January 2005. In his recent column, Mr. Moore claims that while he was mayor, the firefighters’ pension fund was 80% funded. It’s not true. When Mr. Moore took office in 2003, the fund was 69.4% funded with an unfunded liability of $13,814,623, and when he left office 18 months later it was funded at 67. 4% with an unfunded liability of $16,881,969.
Mr. Moore, in his column, mentions the statewide Texas Municipal Retirement Funds (TMRS), to which the city of Longview contributes for its other employees in addition to Social Security.
What he failed to mention was that under his tenure as mayor, the Town of Longview, as an employer, initially assessed its TMRS employees 6.24% more than its employees at the fire pension fund, and when Mr. Moore left office was contributing 7.24% more to his TMRS employees than to his fire pension fund employees. This underfunding, and its snowball effect, is one of the reasons for the unfunded liability in which the firefighters’ pension fund finds itself today.
It would be correct to say that our current Fire Pensions Board is now working to correct the problems which Mr. Moore helped to create.
Moore says the unfunded liability is between $67 million and over $200 million. There is no reason for this misrepresentation except to incite and promote Mr. Moore’s false narrative. The unfunded liability is a fact and currently stands at $70.6 million, and it is determined by the actuarial study completed as of December 30, 2020.
One thing Mr. Moore and I agree on is that the firefighters’ pension fund and our first responders deserve the support of our Longview residents. The Firefighters Pension Fund has an unfunded liability, and this is an issue that is, and has been, addressed by the Firefighters Pension Board and Longview Town Council for several years. Mr. Moore is entirely ignorant of any steps already taken to address this issue.
In 2012, the firefighters’ pension board met with the city manager and together defined a multi-step plan to improve the fund with actions from the city and the fire department. These actions included increased funding for the city and firefighters and changes to pension benefits voted in by fund firefighters who voluntarily reduced their pension benefits.
These steps were summarized in an August 2019 column written by Kristen Ishihara, City Council Liaison to the Pensions Board.
Most recently, Longview Town Council approved in October the hiring of an actuarial consultant to review the pension fund and make recommendations to council and the pension board on what other steps we might consider to improve the pension fund. pension.
I look forward to hearing the results of this study and continuing our commitment to supporting our Longview firefighters through the pension fund and its continued viability.
I invite Mr. Moore to visit me anytime regarding this commitment to our Longview firefighters.
I commend the News-Journal for its willingness to examine the facts and to correct previously printed misinformation. I commend the Mayor, City Council and the City Manager’s Office for their diligence over the years in working with us to resolve this unfunded liability.
Finally, I would like to thank the men and women of the Longview Fire Department, active and retired, for their hard work and continued support of the Firefighters Pension Board. You have my pledge and the pension board’s pledge to support you as you have supported and sacrificed for us.