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City pension plans lose millions in 2021 fiscal year

MORGANTOWN — There’s bad news and there’s, hopefully, good news when it comes to the city of Morgantown’s pension plans.

The bad news, all three of the city’s plans — civilian, police and fire — took a massive hit in the 2021 fiscal year, which ended June 30.

The good news is the plans are investments, so as long as the market recovers the plans will follow.

Morgantown Finance Director Kevin Tennant recently walked city council through the mandatory annual reports for the police and fire pensions.

“What I would like to call your attention to is the loss on the change in fair market value. On the policeman’s pension, the change in fair market value was a negative $3.5 million and then the fireman’s was almost negative $3 million.

The police pension started the fiscal year on July 1, 2021, at $19,707,129 and ended at $16,258,285, a loss of 15.11%.

The fire pension started the fiscal year at $16,528,896 and ended at $13,709,149 for a loss of 15.14%.

The city’s civilian pension, which is shared with the Morgantown Utility Board, lost over $11.3 million.

Asked what these losses actually mean, Tennant explained that while he wouldn’t characterize the figures as little more than numbers on paper, the market declines are unrealized.

“The pension investments are made up of domestic stocks, internal stocks, bonds, cash and cash equivalents, and small balances of alternative investments,” he explained. “As long as the markets recover, there will be no long-term effects on the pensions. The pension funds had similar losses in 2020 after COVID but recovered in 2021 and had significant gains.”

In other city news, City Attorney Ryan Simonton said the bid openings for the city hall renovation project is anticipated for Oct. 4 and construction should begin shortly after.

The project was previously calculated at just under $3 million though that number was expected to climb primarily due to inflation. 

The city hall work is the first and largest of several facility improvements funded through the issuance of construction bonds.

Lastly, Rick Bebout offered an update on the city’s annual urban archery hunt, which began Sept. 3 and will run through the end of January, save a week or so at the start of the new year.

Bebout said there are 87 men and women hunting deer on 40 properties, both public and private, across the city.

As of Sept. 20, the hunters had killed 25 deer, 14 of which will be processed and donated to area feeding programs.

Last year, the hunt surpassed 10,000 pounds of donated venison since its inception in 2011.