The pension funds for the Titusville Police and Fire departments have both seen positive growth, according to reports given at Thursday’s quarterly pension board meetings.
The fire pension fund sat at $3,421,703.95 at the end of June, an increase of 3.35% compared to the end of the last quarter, according to Robert Nicotra of Presque Isle Wealth Management.
“So, it was a good quarter,” he said.
The account started the year off at $2,947,991.40, meaning it has seen an overall 16.07% return on investment through June. In fact, Nicotra said he checked the account on Wednesday and saw that it was now over 18% on its return.
The 3.35% increase is only slightly under the benchmark set for the fund for the end of June, which called for a 3.53% jump. However, it is continuing a trend of growth from last quarter, which ended at a 12.31% positive return, though the discrepancy from the benchmark did raise some concern.
“What are your thoughts?” Fire Chief Joe Lamey, who sits on the board, said. “Normally, you guys crush the benchmark.”
Nicotra attributed the difference due to just some poor stock selections, with no exact rhyme or reasons. He believes the rest of the year should look strong overall, however.
“If you look at the basic facts of the economy, the economy is good,” he said.
Mark Mehlenbacher, the planned administrator for the account, said that the fire pension fund would not need to sell any stocks to make it through the rest of the year, with the whole of the remaining expenses able to be covered by the minimum municipal obligation.
“(It’s been a) pretty quiet quarter,” Mehlenbacher said. “Pretty quiet year-to-date, really.”
On the police side of the things, the pension saw a 3.42% growth on returns, bringing it to $6,250,983.61 at June 30. This leaves the account at a 14.46% growth from the start of the year, something Northwest Bank Senior Portfolio Manager Derek Bruno highlighted as a major positive.
“This is very good for year-to-date,” Bruno said. According to him, a reasonably good end of year growth would be between 6-8%, well outperformed by the 14.46%.
The growth is also falling in line or outperforming domestic, international and fix income market changes. Based on comparison data made up of S&P 500, MSCI EAFE and BRCLS CAP indexes, markets saw a 3.91% growth over the last quarter, and a year-to-date growth of 13.15%.
Looking toward the overall market, Bruno predicted that the economy would slow, but not contract. He pointed to the ongoing trade war with China and concerns about the federal interest rate as possible causes for slower economic growth.
While the fire pension did not require dipping into the investments, Mehlenbacher said the police fund will require an injection of $200,000 to cover expenses through the end of the year. This will require the pension fund to sell off some of its stocks, something Bruno said he would get to work on promptly.
Titusville City Manager Larry Manross during the public participation section of the fire pension board meeting raised a concern regarding spouses getting access to the pensions of their deceased partners.
“I would still like to encourage this pension board to change what it says about the spouse,” Manross said. “Currently, if a fireman is 75 years old and marries a 25-year-old girl, and he dies, she gets that pension the rest of her life. That needs to be changed.”
However, City Controller Kathy Barnhart, who sits on the board, said such an action might constitute a kind of discrimination and would likely not be allowed under law.
“I don’t think you can tell people who to marry and who not to marry,” Barnhart said. “Sorry.”
Lamey said he believed spouses are guaranteed the pension under state law, and viewed the argument as a potentially slippery slope situation. However, he admitted there are likely cases of emergency personnel getting taken advantage of by people looking to receive a pension.
“The difficulty is writing some sort of a pension ordinance that would preclude her from that,” he said. “I mean, I don’t know how you would put that in.”
Other meeting news
The firemen pension board voted unanimously to award Marjorie Hartle a one-time death benefit payment of $1,000. Marjorie Hartle’s husband, Dennis Hartle, died on June 26.
The next meeting of the pension boards will take place on Oct. 25, starting at 8 a.m., at the Titusville Police Department board room.
Ray can be reached, by email, at firstname.lastname@example.org.