The last time the pension fund for Marysville police officers and firefighters was fully funded was 2002, when assets were about $15 million and “actuarial accrued liabilities” were $14.57 million.
As of 2016, the public safety pension liabilities were only 63.65 percent funded, with assets of $14.9 million and liabilities of $23.4 million.
The pension fund for general city workers has experienced a similar downward trend in its health. The pensions for city workers were last fully funded in 2002, with assets of $17.04 million and liabilities of $16.7 million.
In 2016, the pensions of city workers were funded at 72 percent, with assets of $17.7 million and liabilities of $24.6 million.
The shortfalls occurred even though the city has contributed over $1 million a year to the plans since 2015, including $1.12 million this year, with 4 percent increases scheduled through 2022.
Employees contribute 8 percent of their salaries or wages into the pension funds.
Can Marysville increase its payments into the pension funds enough raise their funded percentages to 80 percent over the next decade or so — Mayor Dan Damman’s goal — and still spend nearly $3 million in fiscal year 2017-2018 on a new city hall, a new roof and HVAC system for the public safety building, a refurbished recreation center and brand new Little League fields in Marysville Park?
That was the question Damman posed in the city council’s special goal-setting meeting on July 17.
“We’ve dropped almost 50 percent since 2003,” Damman said.
The city council has already approved roughly $400,000 of work on the public safety building, the roof of which has leaked since the structure was completed in the late 1990s.
The city has budgeted $1.5 million for a new city hall, but it might cost more.
“I don’t think $1.5 million will get it done,” said Damman. “It will be most likely closer to $1.8 million.”
The city has budgeted $250,000 for improvements to the recreation center, located in the old fire hall on the south side of Marysville Park, and $400,000 to renovate the six baseball diamonds in Marysville Park.
The city has hired Environmental Consulting and Technology Inc. to engineer the work at the ball fields, which includes reconfiguring the four southernmost fields so all four home plates meet at essentially the same point.
Given the shortfalls in funding the pension plans, Damman wanted to make sure the projects were financially feasible.
“I wouldn’t like to see my own pension funded in the 60 percent range,” said council member Mike Buggy.
“In the state now, you have to be above a funding level of 60 percent or file a plan of correction,” said City Manager Randy Fernandez.
The council members agreed they could not make a final determination on the projects until they heard from the actuary for the pension plans and her updated figures for the plans’ rates of return and the most recent actuarial tables on the longevity of pensioners.
Fernandez said he had invited her to the meeting, but she was on vacation.
The seven members concurred that building a new city hall was the most important project, followed by renovating the recreation center. Renovating the ball fields — with an eye toward attracting major tournaments to town — appears to have lost popularity since it was discussed in June’s goal session.
“If I’d known the $400,000 was for the ball fields, no way would I have voted for it,” said council member Dave Barber.
“Me either,” said member Rita Hendricks, who urged the council to come up with a concrete plan to rebuild the pension funds.
The council could cancel the ball field reconstruction and the city could pay off ECT for its work to date.
Damman recommended “plowing forward” on all of the projects and seeing what the actuary has to say.
Fernandez said he would try to line up the actuary for a special meeting on Aug. 21.
Jim Bloch is a freelance writer. Contact him at email@example.com.