by Richard Warbrouck, RFFOW President
I want to congratulate Assistant Chief A.D. Vickery for his 50 years of service to the Seattle Fire Department, 1966 to 2016. I am happy to report, as Chief Vickery stated “it isn’t over yet.” I was pleased to attend the reception at old Station 10, Fire Department Headquarters, and join in the celebration with Chief Vickery, Fire Chief Harold Scoggins and other city, state and federal dignitaries. Chief Vickery joins former Fire Chief William Fitzgerald, 1913-1963, fire-fighter Kenneth Hoefner, 1959-2009 and a few others in the 50 year service league.
Chief Vickery has seen and participated in many changes in the fire ser-vice and will undoubtedly be involved in many more. He stated that he still enjoys going to work. I want to mention that even though he is still employed, he is a member of the Retired Firefighters of Washington and is generous in making legislative contributions. He is also a member of the Seattle Firefighters Pension Board and has served for many years. His service and many contributions as a board member are appreciated.
We notified you last month that ESB 5873 was passed during the last session reopening the window period to select a survivor option benefit for your current spouse if you married after retirement. Many LEOFF I police and fire retirees not members of the RFFOW missed the previous opportunity to exercise this option. For more information contact DRS 13606647000 or by email at recepedrs.wa.gov. Also keep in mind that if you marry or remarry in the future you have to wait one year to apply for the survivor benefit and must apply for the benefit during the second year and before the second anniversary.
On another matter, we are currently helping a lady who was divorced in January 2016 however her pension award was not addressed properly in the divorce decree and her ex-husband died in July. Because of his death she is having problems with DRS in receiving the pension. We may have to go to the court and try to get a clarification of the award to satisfy DRS. If there is a divorce and the spouse is awarded a percentage of the pension as community property, be sure to have the attorney contact DRS for the proper language to allow DRS to divert that percentage of the pension directly to the spouse. Also, as soon as the divorce is final, file the pension award with DRS immediately so a pension check can be issued as directed by the court. It creates a problem when a member dies before the divorced spouse’s pension award is recorded at DRS.
The Bremerton health care issue has been resolved. The city is now paying the bills for the member who is living in Arizona and going to a clinic of his choice.
The Snohomish County Fire District 1 Fire Commissioners meeting is Tuesday night September 6, 2016. A resolution is on the agenda to pay the Part A medical premium for those members who have not earned forty quarters of Social Security. We are confident that there will be a majority vote to pass the resolution.
We are waiting for the date of the next City of Edmonds LEOFF I Disability Board to discuss the payment of medical expenses approved by the board. We will also discuss the LEOFF I retirement statute regarding a Prior Act board and the payment of the excess of benefits to a retired Prior Act firefighter and a Prior Act police officer.
Director’s Roy Orlando, Jim Adsley, Curt Vandver, Vice President Jim Fossos and myself attended a roundtable discussion in Olympia regarding the pension merger ESB 6668. The meeting was chaired by Senator Steve Conway, the Chairman of the Select Committee on Pension Policy. Senator Barbara Bailey was on the phone but co other Select Committee members were present. Matt Smith, the State Actuary was on the agenda to explain the fiscal note on SB 6668 and a summary of the merger bill. This is a 17 page report on the fiscal impact on a LEOFF ITRS I merger. It’s very difficult to summarize a 17 page document with a number of charts in a brief article. The document includes the highlights of the actuarial analysis, funding policy, why the bill has a savings and who receives the savings. It also shows the projected value of the TRS I and the LEOFF I funds from 2014 to 2050 in the following categories: very optimistic, optimistic, expected, pessimistic, and very pessimistic. We are dealing with assumptions. No one has a crystal ball and the past is no indication of the future. There was a lot of discussion of the 7.7% projected earning rate. The society of actuaries is suggesting a rate of 5.5% while some in the private sector are recommending that 3.5% is more realistic.
All I can say is that this whole thing is a mess. We are dealing with so many unknowns. If the merge of the two plans creates a larger unfunded liability the state and the employers (the school district) would be on the hook. If there is a merger with LEOFF II and there is an unfunded liability the LEOFF II members and the employers are going to have to pay for the LEOFF I benefits.
We did learn that the Select Committee on Pension Policy only has to provide a report. They didn’t have to recommend for or against the merger. The actuary’s office will write the report to the legislature, somehow with the oversight of the Select Committee whose members have not attended the roundtable discussions. The state will inherit the LEOFF I Fund when the system is closed but they want to spend the projected surplus that may be there tomorrow/today. It’s like betting on a race horse to win when the horse has not even been born.
Another example is: you have a house valued today at $400,000. The inflation rate in real estate is projected to be 10% for the next ten years. You go to the bank and ask for a 10 year loan of $800,000 because the house should be valued at $800,000 in 10 years. You want to make interest only payments for the next 10 year period. What do you think the banker would say? The sad part of the story is that 10 years later the house is only worth $500,000 when you have to pay off the loan.
The LEOFF II board is working on an update of the LEOFF I-LEOFF II merger. To my knowledge there has been no public meeting or roundtable discussions to discuss the update.
The next Select Committee meeting will be September 20, 2016 at 10:00 am in the John L. O’Brien Building in Olympia (360-786-6140). Please try to attend this meeting in order to express your concerns and objections regarding the merger.
The next LEOFF II Board meeting is scheduled for September 21, 2016 at 9:30 am in the State Investment Board Building in West Olympia (360-586-2320).