NTMC pensions topic of Monday meeting | News

Attorneys will answer public questions from 4 to 6 p.m. Monday at North Texas Medical Center regarding the employee pension plan, according to Kristi Rigsby, spokeswoman for NTMC.

The Gainesville Hospital District’s monthly meeting will follow at 6 p.m.

Chris Janning, managing director at Dallas-based Hilltop Securities, told board members last month that the district filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy earlier this year to keep the hospital open.

“Nobody would lend us money because we were losing so much money,” said Janning, a financial advisor to the district.“Our No. 1 unpaid liability, our biggest one, is making sure our pension gets fully funded. We’ve made promises to both current employees and past employees that they will have a retirement benefit.”

Board members heard what it would take to possibly terminate the district’s employee pension plan from officials in May and approved a $10,000 payment to Austin-based firm Rudd and Wisdom, Inc. to perform an actuary study.

As of Friday afternoon, NTMC had yet to receive a copy of the study, according to Christy Daughtry, an administrative assistant at the hospital.

Janning said there are three categories of employees in the plan: Those who are still working and putting into the plan but aren’t drawing yet, those who have quit or have been terminated but are fully vested and have benefits coming to them when they are eligible to retire and retired employees who are already drawing out of the plan.

“If you look at what we owe all those categories of people, and you assume they all want to immediately take the safest route, that’s the most expensive to close the plan, that comes to $16.1 million that we owe into that plan,” he said.

Last month, the board room was packed by people who came to hear about the pension’s future.

“I want to thank the board for your service. I know you have difficult decisions to make right now and I appreciate the time that you’re giving to the district,” said Janae Hall. “I know that one of the decisions you have to make involves the employee pension plan.”

Hall said she understood that under the hospital’s bankruptcy, the pension plan is viewed as just a financial liability.

“A lot of the employees covered under the pension plan have worked 20, 30 and some even more than 40 years,” Hall said. “The pension plan was considered by the employees to be part of our earned compensation. There were promises and reassurances that the plan was cared for and completely safe. The pension is a big part of their retirement plan.”

The Gainesville Hospital District is currently about $30 million in debt, according to Janning.

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