Police Burial Fund
Where we started
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
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 Board of Trustees will then send a letter to the
deceased’s family letting them know that donations were received in honor of
their family member and will be used towards burying other officers.
The burial fund will be encouraging retired officers who
are well off financially to list the Houston Police Burial Fund as their
beneficiary, thus donating to other members the benefit amount that they would
have otherwise been entitled.
The burial fund will be encouraging retired officers to
list the fund as their beneficiary in life insurance policies and to remember
the fund in their wills.
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.