The 10th annual NIRMA conference is highlighted by the distribution of a $500,000 dividend to 57 counties that were members from 1991 through 1996. This marks the eighth dividend issued since 1994 and increases the total returned to counties to more than $3.9 million. In another overwhelming show of support, 100 percent of NIRMA members commit for an additional three years. With the membership nearly doubling since 1988, a decision is made to expand the NIRMA Board of Directors from nine to 11 members to increase continuity and geographic representation. As the Board of Directors prepares to establish rates for the coming year, it is clear a hardening in the property and casualty insurance market will have an impact on the pool’s insurance costs. But NIRMA’s proven stability and growth continue to make it an attractive book of business to excess lines insurers. Jack Mills, considered a driving force behind the creation of NIRMA in the late 1980s and for the pool’s continuous growth and development over the past 12 years, retires as executive director of both NIRMA and NACO. Craig Nelson is named as NIRMA executive director. NIRMA achieves another significant milestone as its membership grows to 64 with the July 1 addition of Gosper County, which officially doubles the membership size from that when the pool was created in 1988. Forty additional years of combined government experience is added when the NIRMA Board of Directors grows from nine to 11 members. NIRMA and NIRMA II combine for an exceptionally strong member fund balance of $14 million. Since 1988, the pools have earned nearly $9.4 million in interest. By year’s end, the membership stands at 65 counties and plans are announced for an additional $1 million dividend.
Aon Risk Services of Nebraska, Inc., assumes the critical role of NIRMA’s insurance broker. Claims administration functions are now handled in-house, giving NIRMA instant access to information and providing member counties with a more expeditious means of handling their claims. Fifty-six counties and their taxpayers once again reap the further benefits of NIRMA in the form of a $1 million dividend for contract years 1991 and 1995. In six years, NIRMA has returned in excess of $4.9 million to member counties. The 2001 insurance market is being compared to that of the mid 1980s, giving further credence to the value of NIRMA. Jim Anderson, chairman of the NIRMA Board of Directors since the pools were created in 1988, announces his retirement from county government. Doris Karloff is elected to succeed Anderson. NIRMA is not immune from the current hard market conditions and will pay nearly 40 percent more in insurance costs compared to the previous year. Because of its financial stability, NIRMA is able to limit a member contribution rate increase to 9.5 percent for the coming policy year and retain existing deductibles and coverage levels. This emphasizes the importance of self-insurance pooling, as NIRMA is able to absorb the increase in excess insurance costs without passing it on in its entirety to the membership. As year-end approaches, the combined member fund balance of NIRMA and NIRMA II exceeds $14.5 million and interest earned since 1988 tops $10 million.
Despite a continuation of difficult market conditions, NIRMA begins the year with yet another stellar financial report. Its commitment to return unencumbered funds is realized not once, but twice. Two dividends of $400,000 each are issued to 56 counties for policy year 1995. It marks the 10th and 11th dividends issued in nine years. Nearly $6 million has now been returned to counties. NIRMA continues to be an attractive account for insurance underwriters due to its consistency, financial stability, and steady growth. With the addition of three counties between January and September, the NIRMA membership now stands at an impressive 68, or 73 percent of all Nebraska counties. Overall, insurance market conditions give no indication of softening and NIRMA experiences an increase of more than 41 percent in its excess insurance costs. Due to considerable efforts on the part of NIRMA, its broker, and insurance partners, the increase is still substantially less than the current norm across the country. Members see an average 13.4 percent increase as a result, well below what many other public entities across the nation are encountering. As the year draws to a close, the member fund balance stands at $14.9 million, interest earned since 1988 surpasses $11.5 million, and total assets exceed $25 million. The NIRMA Board of Directors participates in an in-depth, three-day strategic planning meeting and formulates a progressive blueprint for the future. As of December 31, each member county approves a resolution to recommit for another three years, keeping intact the distinction of a member never having left NIRMA.
NIRMA observes its 15th anniversary, and in conjunction publishes a commemorative annual report which shares a comprehensive look back at the pool’s dynamic history. A $1 million dividend is issued to 65 member counties, bringing the cumulative total that has been returned to counties to $6.7 million. The Interchange newsletter debuts, providing a bimonthly exchange of information between NIRMA and its member counties. The Board of Directors adopts a new mission statement which more accurately describes the present-day role of NIRMA. Public officials liability, errors and omissions and employment practices liability coverages are now offered by NIRMA, as opposed to an outside carrier. NIRMA joins County Reinsurance, Limited (CRL), a member-owned captive insurance company which operates essentially as a pool for pools to provide insurance coverage. A toll-free employment law and human resources help line is established for the exclusive use of NIRMA members. With the addition of four counties during the year, total membership now stands at 72.
NIRMA responds quickly when it becomes apparent that Congress would not delay implementation of sweeping changes in the U.S. Department of Labor’s wage and hour regulations and provides member county officials and supervisory personnel with an extensive telephonic conference presentation detailing changes in overtime pay, exempt status classifications, minimum wage requirements, and other modifications that will affect public employers. Nearly 300 people from 60 member counties listen in. New ground is broken when, for the first time in the pool’s 17-year history, a comprehensive membership survey is conducted to determine members’ confidence level in the program, evaluate the services being provided, and gain valuable input to help shape the future and direction of NIRMA. The pool welcomes two new counties, making it the third consecutive year two or more counties have joined the pool, and bringing the total membership to 74, or 80 percent of all Nebraska counties.
In a year highlighted by many new chapters, possibly the most positive and exciting is the investment NIRMA makes in its future with the purchase of and move to expanded office space in downtown Lincoln’s historic CenterStone Building. The consecutive years of multiple-county growth extends to four with the addition of two more counties, and total membership in NIRMA stands at 76. The member fund balance reaches an all-time high of $17.9 million, with dividends returned to member counties surpassing a cumulative total of $7.7 million. Year-end brings another new chapter, when each of the 72 counties eligible to extend their participation in NIRMA for another three years do so by unanimous votes of the respective Boards of Commissioners or Supervisors. It marks the sixth consecutive time since 1988 that all member counties recommit to and reaffirm their faith and belief in pooling and the NIRMA program.
For the ninth consecutive year a dividend is issued at NIRMA’s Annual Conference in February, this time to 72 counties in the collective amount of $1 million. Membership grows yet again with the addition of the pool’s 77th county. To keep county officials and supervisory personnel apprised of important human resources and employment law considerations without having to leave their courthouses, NIRMA conducts a series of quarterly telephonic conferences for in excess of 1,200 participants. Plans are also announced for the creation of NIRMA University through which one component is a pilot program introducing 11 member counties to the convenience and ease of online training courses that address multiple human resources, management, safety and law enforcement topics.
Sixty-seven counties share in a $500,000 dividend NIRMA issues at its February conference. Also at the conference, NIRMA introduces its new County Safety Committee Handbook, a handy reference guide published to provide guidance and assistance to committee members in meeting their responsibilities. A totally revamped and interactive NIRMA Web site makes its debut, and members may now file claim reports and update their property schedules online. The Nebraska Department of Insurance returns a very positive audit report following its statutorily-required examination of NIRMA and NIRMA II operations. At the same time, an independent claims audit conducted on behalf of County Reinsurance, Limited (CRL), a national pool in which NIRMA is a member and through which it purchases excess and reinsurance coverage, produces an equally complimentary report. Nearly 300 officials and supervisory personnel from 67 of our member counties attend one of five regional employment practices seminars NIRMA conducts across the state. At each seminar NIRMA issues its revised and expanded Guide to Creating a Personnel System for Nebraska Counties. Following a successful pilot program, the NIRMA University online continuing education program continues with 12-month curriculum developed exclusively for county law enforcement and corrections personnel. More than one-quarter of NIRMA member counties see their premium contribution levels decrease beyond the decreases of the prior year, and, overall, the member premium contribution level was held to an average 1.92 average increase. For the sixth year in a row NIRMA sees its membership increase with the addition of one new county, bringing the total membership to 78. The year ends with the Member Fund Balance, or the equity counties have in NIRMA and NIRMA II, at $21.2 million.
It is a year to reflect, as NIRMA observes its 20th anniversary with a series of special events throughout the year. It begins with the issuance of a $788,448 dividend to 70 eligible members. The significance of this dividend, notwithstanding that it marks the 13th consecutive year for such a monetary return, is the fact it increases to $10 million the total amount that NIRMA has been able to return to members since 1991. While 2008 will long be remembered as the year of the country’s financial melt down, prompting some to suggest current economic conditions closely mirror those of the Great Depression era, NIRMA is able to provide some relief of its own when 85 percent of its members see their premium contributions decrease from the previous year. In fact, NIRMA actually collects less in total than it did in each of the two previous years. Membership continues to grow as two more area agencies on aging vote to become part of the program. With these additions, combined with the addition of three area agencies on aging in 2007, the membership now stands at 83. The anniversary celebration draws to a close on a yet another high note as the members’ year-end equity in the Member Fund Balance reaches an all-time high of $22.4 million and the NIRMA Board of Directors announces plans to issue a $1.5 million dividend in the year ahead.
For the seventh consecutive time in NIRMA’s 21-year history, 100 percent of the membership is committed to participate in the program for another three-year period. This serves as a testament to the confidence members have in NIRMA to provide the best insurance coverages at the most affordable price. Another streak continues as NIRMA issues a dividend for the 14th consecutive year, this time in the amount of $1,498,752 that is shared by 76 eligible member counties. It is the largest dividend in program history and increases the total amount returned to members to nearly $11.5 million. The library of reference manuals published by NIRMA for its members grows again as the Guide to the MUTCD for Nebraska Counties is distributed in conjunction with five regional road signing seminars NIRMA presents in April. Interest in the NIRMA ASSIST program continues to grow as 37 member counties submit a total of 65 applications seeking in excess of $222,000 in grant funding assistance to apply toward a variety of safety-related projects and purchases, far more than NIRMA could fully fund. A total of $95,105 is approved, bringing to $280,000 the total amount NIRMA has awarded since the program was created in 2008.