Casper Council Looks at Setting Aside $5 Million for Firefighter Pensions
At the Casper City Council meeting on Tuesday, the council heard from city manager Carter Napier about how the city plans to pay for the $7.2 million the council will need to pay over the next 20 years.
The need for the money comes from a recent bill passed by the Wyoming legislature which secures funding for pensions for firefighters who served before 1981 by combining payments from the state and cities to cover the $20 million price tag over the next 20 years.
The way Napier suggested the city pay for the pension on Casper's end is to set up a sinking fund, which would set aside a little under $5 million now, which, with an average annual 4% interest, would be able to pay off the entirety of the money the city owes over the next 20 years, with payments of $364,705 each year.
While it would normally be difficult to have those kinds of funds on hand without having to siphon them off other projects, Napier said that because of a recent audit the city did, they were able to find enough money to be able to pay into the pension fund.
In total, Napier said that from the draft of the audit, they found an extra $1.6 million from revenues that performed better than they expected and an extra $2.7 million from expenditures performing better, for a total of $4.3 million, with money from the budget being used to shore up the difference to get to $4.9 million.
Councilmember Jai-Ayala Sutherland asked Napier what the money from the audit could have been used for, and Napier said in response that it could have been used to renovate the new police or fire buildings.
"The biggest piece of direction that I would probably seek with that money is probably to dedicate to some capital project," Napier said. "The police building for example is large on my mind right now and $5 million would go a long way in terms of having to seek funds elsewhere to make that project happen, the rehabilitation primarily. Another one would certainly be fire station 1. $5 million would go a long way to helping fire station 1 come to reality...These dollars have not been encumbered and that is the value of these dollars. It's not like we're taking it away from our obligatory reserves anywhere or are ARPA funds, those have been untouched with this proposal."
According to the city, census results from March 2022, showed that of the 255 total pensioners, 93 are retired from Casper and thus are eligible for benefits.
While the city anticipates an annual rate of return of 4%, they mention that if returns drop below that percent, the city may need to inject more money into the fund in the future.
Napier said that there is an attempt to change the Wyoming constitution which would allow cities and towns in the state to invest more of their money and more into stocks and equity, which could help the sinking fund the city is proposing to get a higher return on investment.