Fire razes Triumph house, 6 homeless

first_imgA fire, suspected to be electrical in origin, completely razed the dwelling of a Triumph, East Coast Demerara (ECD), family on Friday morning, leaving at least million in losses.The fire reportedly started in the vicinity of the circuit breaker in the upper flat of the two-storey wooden structure located at Lot 4 Railway Street, Triumph, ECD and rapidly spread to other parts of the house.The entire house engulfed in flames on Friday morningAt the time of the blaze, the owner of house, Assistant Superintendent of Police, Ramesh Singh was at home along with his wife, daughter-in-law and grandson. Two other members of the house had already left for work. The occupants of the house at the time ran to safety and were not able to salvage any household items.Reports are that by the time the Guyana Fire Service arrived at the scene, the building was already engulfed in flames. Speaking with Guyana Times, Assistant Superintendent Singh explained that he along with the other family members were in the lower flat of the house when he heard a sound as if dried leaves were on fire followed by the smell of smoke.At that time, he thought that the smell and sound were coming from the cemetery which was being cleared. Soon after, he explained that his neighbours raised an alarm informing him that the house was on fire.The neighbours rushed to the scene and formed a bucket brigade in an attempt to put out the blaze but their efforts proved futile. They were forced to retreat due to the intensity of the fire. “The neighbors later told me that the electric wire that runs from the main pole was sparking and then they see smoke and fire,” Singh noted.He further stated that after the fire started, his only option was to make sure that his family was secured and it was a neighbour who drove his motorcar out of the yard. A report was made to the Guyana Power and Light but up to late Friday evening, officials from the utility company were still to visit the family.An investigation has been launched into the fire by members of the Guyana Fire Service.last_img read more

Heat Singe The Nets, 88-84

first_imgTweetPinShare0 Shares MIAMI — When Hassan Whiteside came to the Miami Heat, Dwyane Wade was under the impression that the center was a rookie.His NBA debut was actually in 2010.  His coming-out party, however, seems to be happening now — and for the struggling Heat, it might be the perfect time.Chris Bosh scored 26 points, Wade scored 10 of his 25 down the stretch and the Heat snapped a four-game losing streak by topping the Brooklyn Nets 88-84 on Jan. 4.“A must-win,” said Bosh, whose team lost by 36 in Houston on Jan. 3. “It didn’t matter who we played.”Whiteside scored 11 points, tied a career high with 10 rebounds and set career bests with five blocked shots and 27 minutes. He came up big midway through the fourth, blocking away Deron Williams’ shot after the Nets’ guard backed Miami’s Norris Cole down in the post with ease.Williams’ shot never had a chance. Whiteside sent it out of bounds, and the Heat needed those plays — improving to 7-12 at home. “It might not look like I’m there,” Whiteside said. “But I’m there.”Joe Johnson scored 19, Brook Lopez added 16 and Mirza Teletovic had 14 for Brooklyn, which had won six of seven and was seeking to get back over .500 for the first time since Nov. 12.The Heat never trailed — and, because nothing comes easily to them anymore, still had to sweat out the ending. A nine-point Heat lead with 4:49 left was whittled to three, and the Nets actually had a chance to tie with just over a minute remaining but Teletovic’s 3-pointer rattled out.“We couldn’t stop Bosh. We couldn’t stop Wade,” Nets coach Lionel Hollins said. “That was the reason we couldn’t get any closer.”Williams scored 13 and Mason Plumlee scored 12 for the Nets, who are 0-3 against Miami this season.“I thought we fought hard,” Johnson said. “We had our opportunities, maybe missed a lot of chippies, open shots that we normally make.”Miami led 49-40 at the half, and still was up by five after the third. The third quarter has been an issue all season and it was again, with Miami getting outscored 19-15 in those 12 minutes.But the Heat held the lead, despite not getting to the 20-point mark in that quarter for the third straight game. And in the fourth, Miami had just enough.“It’s hard to win in this league,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “It really is. … Even in a game like this, when we had to fight it all the way to the end, you don’t take winning for granted when you’re having a season like we (are) right now.”(TIM REYNOLDS, AP Basketball Writer)last_img read more

Houston pension liability has doubled since 2008 to 39 billion

first_imgShare7Rice UniversityOffice of Public Affairs / News & Media RelationsDavid [email protected] [email protected] pension liability has doubled since 2008 to $3.9 billionReport from Rice’s Kinder Institute provides overview of Houston pensions and options for reformHOUSTON – (Aug. 9, 2016) – Houston’s pension liability has doubled since 2008 to $3.9 billion and is likely to continue to increase if no action is taken, according to a new report from Rice University’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research.The report, “The Houston Pension Question: How the City’s Pension Liability Grew and the Options for Reform,” was designed to provide the public and policymakers with an overview of the current financial state of Houston’s pensions, an explanation of why the city’s unfunded liabilities are growing and insights on potential options for reform. The report also puts Houston’s pension situation in a national context and is available online at http://www.kinder.rice.edu.History and overview of current systemThe city of Houston currently contributes approximately $350 million per year to three pension funds combined, but it is not enough to stop the growth in unfunded liability, according to the report.“Houston currently faces an increasing unfunded liability for its employee pensions totaling $3.9 billion, as of 2015,” said Bill Fulton, director of the Kinder Institute. “This number is up from $212 million in 1992. If the system remains unchanged, this unfunded liability is expected to keep growing.”Fulton added, “We respect the difficult task that the city and the pension boards are facing. We feel this report speaks for itself and encourage all parties to use it as a resource for constructive dialogue. We also encourage the city and the pension boards to work toward a long-term solution.”All three of Houston’s pension systems – the Houston Police Officers’ Pension System (HPOPS), which includes 21 percent of city employees; the Houston Firefighters’ Relief and Retirement Fund (HFRRF), which includes 16 percent of city employees, and the Houston Municipal Employee Pension System (HMEPS), which includes 63 percent of city employees – are currently underfunded, according to the report. HPOPS is funded at 81 percent and HFRRF is funded at 92 percent (as of 2013), though both of these funding levels are favorable compared to the national average, which is 74 percent for large state and local plans. HMEPS is funded at 54 percent, well below the national average. This underfunding is the result of several trends, including annual payments below the amount required to maintain steady funding levels and assumed rates of investment returns that are higher than the national average and higher than recent experience.The report said that each pension plan will require a separate set of solutions because of the different sources of their underfunding. The problems with the municipal employees pension fund are a result of the long-term unfunded liability, while the cost of the police and fire plans is driven by the relatively high annual cost of providing pensions.Options for reformThe report outlined four options for reform.Increase city’s financial commitment to the pension systems.This option would meet current obligations and pay down the unfunded liability. However, this would require the city to increase its revenue or divert funds from other uses, which could affect the city’s ability to provide other public services.Require larger employee contributions.In Houston, HMEPS members contribute 2.8 percent of their salary – nearly 5 fewer percentage points than the national average (7.6 percent individual contributions) with regard to employee contributions. HFRRF and HPOPS pay 9 percent and 9.3 percent, respectively (close to the national average of 9.6 percent). Increasing HMEPS contributions to the national average would help. However, without an increase in wages, this amounts to a decrease in employee compensation and may reduce the quality of worker the city can attract.Switch to a defined contribution system or “hybrid” defined benefit-defined contribution system for new hires.This change would shift the financial risk from the employer to the employee for newly hired workers. At the time this change occurs, existing employees are typically legally protected to continue with the original defined benefit plan. This option may be attractive to short-term or younger workers, since the benefits associated with defined contribution plans accrue evenly over a worker’s career and are more portable. However, switching to a defined contribution system does not address the previous unfunded liability.Reduce benefits for current employees.Although cities are usually legally prohibited from cutting benefits for current and former employees, there is flexibility with annual Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA). A reduction in COLA can immediately reduce the unfunded liability. While this can reduce financial obligations over time, it is a decrease in compensation to employers and could mean that retiree income loses ground to inflation over time. Changes to the Deferred Retirement Option Program (DROP), which allows retirement-eligible employees to claim pension benefits while continuing to work, would likely result in smaller savings but could be part of an overall solution.Houston’s system in a national contextAccording to Fulton, Houston’s pension benefits can be described as being “on the high side of normal” and the city’s current pension liability is not out of line with other large cities nationally. But all cities face a growing unfunded liability problem.“Houston is not alone as it works to rein in pension costs,” Fulton said. “Across the country, cities have taken a range of steps to deal with the rising costs of worker retirement benefits.”The report focuses on five other cities – Phoenix; Jacksonville, Fla.; San Diego; Baltimore; and Fort Lauderdale, Fla. – and highlights the steps they have taken to handle the same challenge Houston faces. The report notes that while it is unlikely that Houston would adopt the same exact reform package as any of the five other cities, the case studies are meant to foster conversation about the desirability and effect of different reforms in Houston.“These cities were chosen for their geographic and political diversity, as well as the variety of different techniques they employed as they all sought to address the same basic challenge,” Fulton said.PhoenixThe city of Phoenix is addressing its pension issue with an increase in employee contributions and an adjustment in the pension plan that includes a hybrid option with a traditional pension and the incorporation of a defined contribution plan. The unfunded liability should be paid off by 2040.JacksonvilleThe city of Jacksonville is addressing its pension issue with an increase in employee contributions, a reduction in pension benefits and an acceleration of the city’s payment toward the unfunded liability. By 2046, the unfunded liability should be paid off.San DiegoThe city of San Diego is addressing its pension issue with a reduction in pension benefits and the introduction of a 401K retirement plan for new hires. While this does not shrink the existing liability, it slows its growth as new employees are on a different plan. In addition, the city has committed to making increased payments to ensure the unfunded liability should be paid off by 2045.BaltimoreThe city of Baltimore is addressing its pension issue with a reduction in pension benefits, the introduction of a 401K hybrid retirement plan and increased employee contributions. The unfunded liability should be paid off by 2039.Fort LauderdaleThe city of Fort Lauderdale is addressing its pension issue with the introduction of a 401K retirement plan. While this does not shrink the existing liability, it slows its growth as new employees are on a different plan. The city also introduced a $146.4 million pension bond to pay down the city’s unfunded pension liability. The unfunded pension liability should be paid off by 2042.Fulton said that while there is no “magic solution” to Houston’s pension problems, a resolution will likely require a multifaceted approach involving both the city and its workers.“Ultimately, a pension solution will require a combination of revenue sources, revised assumptions and reforms so that Houston can put the questions of pension finances to rest once and for all,” he said.The Kinder Institute’s report was based on an analysis commissioned by the Center for Retirement Research (CRR) at Boston College and led by Jean-Pierre Aubry, associate director of state and local research at the CCR. In addition, the report draws upon a background paper prepared by John Diamond, the Edward A. and Hermena Hancock Kelly Fellow in Public Finance at Rice’s Baker Institute for Public Policy. The findings are based on an analysis of financial data about the pension plans from 1993 to 2014 (1993 is the first year for which complete data is available on all three of Houston’s plans). The Kinder Institute report also draws on data from the CRR’s Public Plans Database, a collection of information for 109 large state-run and 128 large locally-run pension systems around the country.The report was undertaken at the request of the Kinder Foundation, Houston Endowment, The Brown Foundation Inc. and The Wortham Foundation Inc.-30-This news release can be found online at http://news.rice.edu/.Follow Rice News and Media Relations via Twitter @RiceUNews.Related materials:Report materials: http://kinder.rice.edu/HoustonPension/Kinder Institute for Urban Research: http://kinder.rice.edu/Kinder Institute Twitter: https://twitter.com/RiceKinderInstPhoto link: http://news.rice.edu/files/2012/03/0302_KINDER-b.jpgPhoto credit: Rice University.Rice University’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research is a “think and do” tank that advances understanding of the challenges facing Houston and other urban centers through research, policy analysis and public outreach. By collaborating with civic and political leaders, the Kinder Institute aims to help Houston and other cities.Located on a 300-acre forested campus in Houston, Rice University is consistently ranked among the nation’s top 20 universities by U.S. News & World Report. Rice has highly respected schools of Architecture, Business, Continuing Studies, Engineering, Humanities, Music, Natural Sciences and Social Sciences and is home to the Baker Institute for Public Policy. With 3,910 undergraduates and 2,809 graduate students, Rice’s undergraduate student-to-faculty ratio is 6-to-1. Its residential college system builds close-knit communities and lifelong friendships, just one reason why Rice is ranked No. 1 for best quality of life and for lots of race/class interaction by the Princeton Review. Rice is also rated as a best value among private universities by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance. To read “What they’re saying about Rice,” go to http://tinyurl.com/RiceUniversityoverview.If you would rather not receive future communications from RiceUniversity2, let us know by clicking here.RiceUniversity2, Public Affairs – MS610 6100 Main Street, Houston, TX 77005-1827 United States AddThislast_img read more