Since 1921 Houston police officers have donated money to the Houston Police Burial Fund to contribute towards their brother and sister officers’ funerals. It originally started out as a collection in a shoebox whenever an officer died. Then it changed to donating 25¢ each time an officer picked up his paycheck at the police headquarters. Eventually it took its current form, once a month payroll deductions.
The burial fund grew dramatically through 1998 as the size of the Houston Police Department greatly increased. It was a young department with many active members paying in and few deaths of retired officers. Also helping the burial fund was the fact that it received large donations from philanthropic organizations. This allowed the fund to keep increasing the burial benefit while keeping the membership dues very low.
However, as we now know, the department would become smaller and older from 1998 onward. This has resulted in most of the burial fund members being nonpaying lifetime members. The dues paying active members currently number less than 3,000. The nondues paying lifetime members number about 5,000.
Two other factors have aggravated this situation. In the 1980s the IRS change the tax code so that although charitable benevolent associations like the burial fund are exempt from paying taxes, those making charitable gifts to such associations can no longer claim them as tax deductions. This dried up most of the burial fund’s charitable income.
And finally, the death rate of the burial fund’s membership is at record high levels.
Where we are now
If the burial fund was an insurance company, it would be in financial straits. However, by law, the. burial fund is not an insurance company. It is a benevolent association. That is. why it does not pay income tax. A life insurance policy tells you how much you will contribute over the life of the policy and how much you can expect your beneficiaries to collect.
The burial fund does not set permanent contribution or benefit amounts. The Houston Police Burial Fund is merely a collection from all regular members that will be disbursed in the name of Houston police officers towards the funeral of a deceased officer.
This is something that life insurance cannot do. The burial fund shows families and the community at large our care and compassion for our deceased brother and sister officers. It does not cover the cost of a complete funeral, replace the deceased’s income, or serve as an investment vehicle. The burial fund is a benevolent charity. Nothing more and nothing less.
The current contribution rate is $8.50 per month. The amount the burial fund is currently contributing towards a member’s funeral is $4,250. These amounts will change over time based upon factors such as the number of active members contributing to the fund, the amount of charitable donations received, and the number of deaths occurring. The member contribution amount and burial benefit are set by the Houston Police Burial Fund Board of Trustees.
Where we are going
The active members have informed the Board of Trustees that at present they believe any dues amount over $8.50 would be more than their fair share in meeting the budget needs of the fund. The Board has agreed with them and therefore will continue floating the burial benefit down rather than contemplating dues increases in the near future. It is this flexibility in setting benefits and dues that help a benevolent association avoid the insolvency issues of life insurance companies.
The Board of Trustees’ goal is to make the burial fund’s contribution to a member’s funeral significant without making it too burdensome on the younger active members who pay into the fund.
With this in mind, the Houston Police Burial Fund is beginning several new fundraising programs to augment the income received from membership dues.
The burial fund is encouraging all members to consider telling their families to post in the department death notices and newspaper obituaries that in lieu of flowers, donations may be made in honor of the deceased to the:
The burial fund will also be soliciting ideas from members, the Houston Police Federal Credit Union, the Houston Police Officers Union, and the Houston Police Retired Officers Association.
The next meeting of the Board of Trustees of the Houston Police Burial Fund is at 11:00 a.m.
Thursday May 11, 2017 at the Knights of Columbus Hall at 602 E. Whitney, Houston Texas. The next annual meeting of the Houston Police Burial Fund membership will be at the same time and location on January 11, 2018. Three of the nine trustee positions will be up for election at the annual meeting.
Please share any ideas that you think might help the burial fund remain strong. You may email me at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Jay Gause is a retired lieutenant with 35 years on the department. He is the newly elected president of the Houston Police Burial Fund.