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Houston Firefighters’ Relief and Retirement Fund

4225 Interwood North Parkway, Houston, TX 77032
(281) 372-5100 or (800) 666-9737  


HFRRF’s mission is to provide a secure retirement benefit plan for our members through professional administration, prudent management of system assets, sound investment practices, and prompt and courteous delivery of accurate benefits and useful information.

 

Member-Services

Member Services

This section describes the various member services provided by the Fund.

In Memory

In Memory

The staff of the Houston Firefighters' Relief and Retirement Fund honors the strength, courage, and humanity of our fallen heroes and their families.

Conference Center

Conference Center

Greer and Lowdermilk Conference Center is nestled in a beautifully landscaped setting, ideal for Corporate Meetings and Social Events.

Business Hours

Business Hours

In observance of Presidents’ Day, our office will close at noon Friday, February 17th and will be closed Monday, February 20th. We will resume normal business hours on Tuesday, February 21, 2017. Normal Business Hours are Monday - Friday, 7:30 AM - 4:00 PM.

FAST FACTS:  

American Investment Council Names HFRRF No.5 of Top 10 Pension Funds by Private Equity Returns

AIC Pension Study Infographic

 

VIDEO: Pensions in 60 Seconds - National Public Pension Coalition

Click to view  Pensions in 60 Seconds - A video on how pensions provide a secure and dignified retirement for millions of working people. 

VIDEO NPPC - Pensions in 60 Seconds


Fighting to Protect Your Pension

  

Texans for Secure Retirement

Click here for more information.

Pension Litigation Tracker

Click here to view this new site. 

HFRRF News            facebook icon     twitter icon     youtube icon     instagram icon   

February 24, 2017 - Update from HFRRF Chairman David Keller

Dear Members:

In recent days, Mayor Sylvester Turner effectively has instructed city staff to end discussions with the Houston Firefighters Relief and Retirement Fund.  After more than 30 formal meetings with the city, scores of emails and phone calls, countless legal and actuarial analyses, and dedicated nights, weekends and holidays working toward a solution, our Mayor, the former state legislator, has decided to use the insider’s game of the legislative process to pursue his own one-sided plan. 

In light of the mayor’s disappointing decision and misleading public comments, I wanted to update you on where things stand and our own plan for protecting our pension system.  

First you should know that we tried in earnest to achieve a reasonable deal for you, our members, with the city. We went into discussions fearing the Mayor would use our well-funded, well-managed system to pay for the other funds’ shortfalls and his other priorities. Our fears now seem well-founded.

As the process wore on we sensed that the other pension systems were getting information, deal language, and negotiations ahead of us. We were not included in the first rounds of discussions. The city returned our drafts slowly or incorrectly using ambiguous language, often with new features and provisions favorable to the city and needing new discussions. On several occasions, when we thought an agreement had been reached, the Mayor’s staff would introduce new items outside the original framework or other “non-negotiable” items. Every maneuver presented more evidence the city was not truly interested in reaching a reasonable deal with us. Looking back, we now believe the city purposefully dragged its feet to use the March 10 deadline for filing bills against us. 

We mention all this background because the Mayor’s recent statements blame us for the current impasse. We view this as a clever attempt to justify to his former legislative colleagues why they should accept his plan despite our serious reservations and objections on points the city insists upon and will not discuss. The Mayor declared, in this week's council meeting, that the plan he submitted for our fund is similar to one for the Houston Police Officer’s Pension System (HPOPS) -- we do not know what his plan is exactly because he has not shared it with us.  Effectively introducing a parity in pensions while there has been no parity in pay for nearly two decades is fundamentally unfair.  If the Mayor’s plan for us is the version we last saw or worse, we will absolutely oppose it. It was punitive and failed to reflect the HFFRF’s strong financial position relative to the other systems.

Since our inception 80 years ago, HFRRF has made sound financial decisions and earned solid returns to ensure your benefits are here now and throughout retirement.  The money which the city owes the firefighters’ pension is less than one-fifth its overall obligation to all Houston pension systems. The Mayor and city staff have ignored the inconvenient fact that firefighters have opted for more in deferred compensation of retirement benefits than current salary.

In coming weeks we will be addressing this situation and will advise you when events in Austin warrant further update. We have many options as to how we will inform legislators about our concerns and the unfolding situation. We refuse to sit idly by while attempts are made to bulldoze us. We will protect our pension system – the best funded among all Texas pension systems with more than $1 billion in assets – so that you do not suffer for the city’s track record of fiscal mismanagement.  We did not dig their holes. We should not be forced to fill them with our retirement funds. While we never expected nor advocated for the status quo and still do not, we are 100% committed to protecting the retirement security of our members. Unfortunately, the city’s priorities do not align with ours. While we have been and remain willing to work with the Mayor to reach amicable language to present to the legislature jointly that would result in adjustments to the Houston Firefighters' Relief and Retirement Fund's statute, it does not appear that the Mayor shares this willingness. 

Sincerely,

David L. Keller, Jr., Chairman, HFRRF Board of Trustees

January 27, 2017 - HFRRF Chair Updates Pension Review Board

 Board of Trustees Chairman David Keller offered the Texas Pension Review Board comments Thursday on the status of discussions with the city of Houston. Keller followed a presentation by COH finance director Kelly Dowe. Keller reminded the PRB of HFRRF’s 80 year history of success in responding to economic and political events which required adjustments to the pension system. He noted how the pension fund and city have met 28 times since last year, involving thousands of hours of staff time, and that another meeting is scheduled next week. 

 Keller emphasized that portions of the city’s proposals are very complex and experimental and would defy simple explanation to plan participants. The PRB has previously expressed desire for simple plan documents. 

 Keller summarized by saying, “I think everyone who engaged in any sort of transaction agrees with the very basic idea that there is no deal until there is a deal. That’s where we are, but we are continuing to work together with the city toward appropriate adjustments.” 

 During Q&A, Keller bantered with PRB members about the possibility for the city ‘gaming’ the pension funds through its proposals, echoing other Houston pension funds’ concerns over enforcement mechanisms for a formula, called “the corridor”.  When PRB Chairman Josh McGee asked Keller for his position, Keller noted how Dowe had characterized enforcement as being no big deal and did not need to be addressed in a proposed bill.  Keller said, “If our concerns are no big deal, then it should be easy for them to include them.”

 January, 1, 2017-Update Regarding Discussions With The City 

The Board is still working earnestly and continuously with the Mayor and the Mayor’s team to reach an agreement on legislation to be jointly submitted to the legislature.

There are, however, a number of complicated issues to be worked out before it can be said that an agreement or “deal” is reached.  Also, the details of how seemingly agreed issues are to be appropriately drafted into bill language need to be worked out.

One of the problems the Board has faced is that our lead actuary of the last few years from Buck Consultants, who was working on calculations for discussions with the City of Houston, has recently been hired away by Retirement Horizons, Incorporated, the actuary for the City.   We are informed that he will not work on City of Houston matters at present.

A conditional framework had been accepted by the Board and the City to guide negotiations.  

 Some of the major issues that still require resolution are:

Providing member information to the City’s actuary, which is complicated by the pending City lawsuits against HFRRF and HFRRF’s former actuary.

A speedy and efficient payment enforcement process in view of the immunities that municipalities have with regard to paying out money.

Complications of the City’s proposed “risk sharing provision” discovered or introduced by the City after the initial non-binding framework was established. 

What happens if the City’s proposed “risk sharing provision” doesn’t work as intended; what funding mechanism will be supplied or retained to ensure the plan continues to be in excellent, well-funded shape.

Trying to better understand and get assurance of how the “risk sharing provision” can provide secure benefits, if the benefits are always subject to further cuts.

A request from the City to use a new actuarial assumption method for the purpose of near-term budget management.

The City has informed the Board’s working team, including the Board’s officers, that it knows of no bill language (other than the original so-called “place-holder” language), at the legislature including legislative bill drafters.    This is important because there is an understanding with the City that the City would not bring or discuss language with the legislature or legislative bill drafters except language that HFRRF had agreed to in writing.

Again, the possibility of there being a deal hinges on mutual solutions to these and other important issues. 

Houston Firefighters’ Relief and Retirement Fund's Private Equity Returns Again Rank in Top 10 Nationwide - American Investment Council Study

 Houston Firefighters’ Relief and Retirement Fund Achieves 14.7 Percent Annualized Return in Private Equity Over 10 Years   

 The Houston Firefighters’ Relief and Retirement Fund (HFRRF) for the 4th year in a row was recognized in the American Investment Council (AIC, fka Private Equity Growth Capital Council)’s annual ranking of large public pension funds’ private equity returns.  With an annualized net ten-year return of 14.7%, HFRRF’s private equity portfolio was ranked in 5th place nationallyThe study’s results revealed which of the 155 public pension funds included in the study, generated the highest rate of return from their private equity portfolios and which ones invested the most in private equity.

 The report also found that private equity delivered a median 11.4% annualized return to these public pension over the last 10 years, more than any other asset class. 

 Ms. Linda Calnan, HFRRF’s Senior Investment Officer, has managed the HFRRF private equity portfolio since 2003, spanning the entire period of the AIC study.

 Click here for the Press Release.

Houston Firefighters’ Relief and Retirement Fund Board Authorizes Sign-Off on NonBinding Summary “Pension Reform Proposal Terms and Conditions” With the City of Houston

Dear Members,
 
After multiple discussion sessions and communications between a Houston Firefighters’ Relief and Retirement Fund team and Mayor Sylvester Turner and his team, the Fund has agreed to move forward on working on the specifics of pension reform legislation with the City of Houston. 

The proposed Terms and Conditions constitute a non-binding framework for drafting legislative language for a jointly proposed bill in the 85TH Texas legislature. The City has asserted that the current plan of firefighter retirement benefits has become burdensome on the taxpayers. The proposed provisions outlined in the “Pension Reform Proposal Terms and Conditions”, referenced above, are subject to a mutual agreement and resolution of legislative language between the Fund’s Board and the City. 

 
No further benefit changes or other changes to the Fund’s pension plan are to be advanced by the City, except those that might be agreed upon in writing by the City and the Fund. 

The focus of your Board of Trustees is our membership.  We recognize our fiduciary responsibility to advocate for our members at all times.  This is what we have done and will continue to do.  We have a desire to promote the health of our plan and ensure its sustainability.  We will continue to update you as additional information is available. 

Faithfully yours, 

David L. Keller, Jr., Chairman

 Summary of HFRRF Pension Proposal Terms and Conditions
 
Sunday's edition of Channel 2, Houston NewsMakers with Khambrel Marshall, Chairman Keller discusses recent Fund issues at 10:00 AM. 

 The focus of your Board of Trustees is our membership. We recognize our fiduciary responsibility to advocate for our members at all times. This is what we have done and will continue to do.

 Click here to view the video.

 Discussions on Plan Update from Chairman David L. Keller, Jr.

 Houston, TX – September 14, 2016: To the membership of the Houston Firefighters’ Relief and Retirement Fund, 

As you know, over the past many months, a team of Trustees from your Board have been meeting with Mayor Turner and/or his staff at the Mayor’s request to attempt to reach an agreement on adjustments to the HFRRF plan.  Although we have worked diligently on your behalf, we have not reached an agreement at this time.  We have discussed economic changes that would fit within the guidelines set forth by the Mayor. We have also presented issues that are important to us.  However, no resolution has been made.   

This has been a challenging process for numerous and various reasons along the way.  The HFRRF became the strongest of the three Houston pension funds and one of the most successful in the State by careful deliberation and due diligence.  We have been applying the same approach here.  Every adjustment proposed was considered based on the impact it would have on the various populations of the membership. 

We will not be in attendance today at the Mayor’s announcement because we are not comfortable portraying to the membership or the public that we have reached a deal. However, we have not walked away from the table.  We are open to continuing the discussion with Mayor Turner in an attempt to reach a mutual agreement. 

We began these discussions with the idea that it would be better to participate and shape reforms rather than have them imposed by the Legislature.  If we can resolve all of the issues required to reach an agreement with the Mayor and City, it will come with adjustments to DROP, cost of living adjustments, contributions, and the interest crediting rate.  As you probably expect, these are the targets of discussion regarding our plan.  The Mayor has committed publicly to a defined-benefit pension and the basic structure that is currently in place. 

We will continue to work under the premise that the benefits of the HFRRF are earned benefits by Houston Firefighters.  These benefits are part of the total compensation of our members.  We believe that retirement with CERTAINTY and DIGNITY are paramount. We believe that the whims of local politics and budget shortfalls not of our making should not dictate the certainty of a firefighter’s retirement. 

The focus of your Board of Trustees is our membership.  We recognize our fiduciary responsibility to advocate for our members at all times.  This is what we have done and will continue to do.  We have a desire to promote the health of our plan and ensure its sustainability.  We will continue to update you as additional information is available. 

Faithfully yours,
David L. Keller, Jr.
Chair

 City of Houston Loses on Appeal in Denied Bid to Have Its Firefighters’ Pension Statute Declared Unconstitutional

 Houston, TX – September 9, 2016:  The Houston Firefighters’ Relief and Retirement Fund (“the Fund”) won another major victory in defense of a City of Houston lawsuit.  The Texas Fourteenth Court of Appeals rejected the City’s petition to have the statute governing the firefighters’ pension declared unconstitutional.  The opinion found the district court's opinion in the Fund's favor to be correct on all grounds.  The law governing the Fund had been changed or updated over the years by the legislature, but has operated constitutionally for 79 years to provide retirement and disability benefits to Houston firefighters and their survivors.

"It appears that the lawsuit was without any basis to begin with and the City has wasted both City and Fund resources in a meritless lawsuit, which has been senselessly continued on appeal," observed David Keller, the Fund's Chairman.

The statutes that govern the Fund are thorough and reasonable, employing a sound formula that determines contributions and solid funding.  The Fund is one of the best funded public pension plans in the State of Texas. The City of Houston pays only about 20% of the cost of benefits going to retired firefighters with the remaining 80% or so coming from the Fund’s investments over the long term of the Fund's existence and the firefighters' own contributions to the Fund. 

The Fund was created by state statute, and since its founding in 1937, it has been administered by its Board of Trustees as provided in the statute.  This structure has kept the Fund's core stability safe from the ever-changing impulses of big city politics and spending.  Additionally, the Fund reports to the state Pension Review Board (PRB), an agency of the state of Texas, and the fund files copies of the actuarial valuations, appraisal reports, annual audits and performs all reporting required of it by the PRB.  The size of the Funds’ assets have grown over the years.  The market value of the Fund assets in 1988 was approximately $468 million, today its assets are approximately $3.84 billion.

 

  Occasionally HFRRF lists and sells its excess equipment on eBay.  Please click    here to see a complete list and place your bid if interested.  All merchandise must be picked up during office hours at the Administration building.