Harrison County, TX Moves Ahead on OPEB Trust

Categories: OPEB/GASB 45/75,PARS In the News,Texas Developments
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Marshall News Messenger  by Robin Y. Richardson, June 30, 2015

Harrison County moved a step closer in securing the future of its retiree health care plan by approving, on Monday, an agreement with Public Agency Retirement Services (PARS), to provide administrative services over its OPEB trust fund.

“It is a multiple agencies trust, meaning one trust, multiple agencies joining the same trust,” said Mitch Barker, of PARS.

“We think that’s the best way,” Barker said. “It keeps costs down. We’re able to spread the costs over all the agencies in the trust. We think that’s a good way to go.”

Barker said 160 agencies have joined the company’s trust, so far; 15 of them are counties.

Harrison County Judge Hugh Taylor said the commissioners court already set aside $500,000 in the fiscal year 2015 budget to fund the trust in efforts to prepare the county for future liabilities concerning the health plan.

“GASB (Governmental Accounting Standards Board reporting requirements) has financial liabilities. These are real liabilities that reflect poorly on our financial position,” Taylor said following Monday’s meeting. He said the court is trying to reduce those liabilities.

“I think lots of (entities) in the state of Texas will be found, in the next 24 months, with liabilities exceeding assets,” Taylor said. “I don’t want to be one of them.”

Barker said, since 2007, PARS has been helping agencies get a handle on the GASB requirements, which causes the reoccurring liability.

Taylor explained before that the county needed to start saving some money to solidify the health plan program and reduce that liability.

“There’s zero accrued assets or zero accrued fund balance to pay the liability so there’s not a lot of agencies that still have this liability, but we do,” he said before.

In addition to the GASB requirements, Barker said PARS also helps agencies get a handle on OPEB requirements.

“It’s retiree health care. It stands for Other Post Employment Benefits, other than pension, therefore it is retiree health care,” he said.

Barker said, in his professional opinion, the best way to safeguard the health care plan is to put money aside in a trust, as the county is doing.

“That’s called pre-funding,” he said. “You want to think of it like pension. You’re putting money aside. This just makes good sense in my opinion.”

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