Former Deputies' Pension Fund Put In Jeopardy

City Has Not Contributed To Sherriff's Department Fund

Indianapolis budget shortfalls have put the pensions of hundreds of former Marion County Sheriff's Department deputies in jeopardy.

For the first time since the fund was set up in 1963 that the city failed to make its full contribution, 6News' Jack Rinehart reported.

Former sheriff's deputies said they are concerned because the law states that if the government fails to make a minimum contribution for three years in a row, the pension plan is automatically terminated.

"You can't make calculated risks on the backs of people who you've already made a commitment to, people who are risking their lives every day, so that your government can run," said Sgt. Rick Snyder, a former sheriff's deputy.

The pension discrepancy began when the Marion County Sheriff's Department and the Indianapolis Police Department merged in 2007, while more than 350 former sheriff's deputies remained under their original pension plans.

That fund lost 26 percent of its value when the economy slowed last year. The city then withheld a $3 million contribution in an effort to balance the budget.

The administration further angered former sheriff's deputies by fully funding pension plans for Indianapolis fire fighters and former IPD officers.

"I would like the opportunity to come to work every single day knowing that I'm going to be treated just like the guy next to me that was a former IPD officer who's now secure in his pension. I'd like to be secure in my pension as well," said Lt. Mike Perkins.

City Controller David Reynolds told Rinehart that the city fully intends to continue funding the pension plan, but that officials want to wait until the economy stabilizes. He said the city will not miss the three-year mark.

"Pension liability is a core service. We have every intention of funding pension liabilities," Reynolds said.

The pension plan gets revenue from several different streams: 75 percent from deputy contributions, investments made by the fund manager and fees from collected tax warrants, while local government covers the other 25 percent.

Former sheriff's deputies who now work for IMPD said they plan to lobby the City-County Council for full funding before the city's 2010 budget is passed next month.

Deputies who have already retired will continue to get their pension benefits even if the plan is terminated.