By Liz Carmack , Communications Specialist
Editor’s Note: As County magazine celebrates TAC’s 50th anniversary, it is featuring a series of articles that will look at the history of TAC through the lens of the services it provides to counties. This installment covers the history of TAC’s technology and communications. Responding to the needs of counties is foundational to TAC’s existence. It’s in the organization’s DNA, and it has been the animating force behind its five decades of service to the institution of county government and the county officials who serve their communities in all 254 Texas counties.
Future issues of County magazine will cover a deep dive into the TAC pools (May/June), the evolution of TAC’s education offerings (Sept./Oct.) and a look at TAC leadership throughout the years (Nov./Dec.). In January 2020 County magazine will release a commemorative 50th anniversary issue with all the 50th anniversary articles, timelines and photos.
To see the full interactive TAC Timeline, visit www.50yearsofTAC.org. Read about the history of the TAC Health and Employee Benefits Pool here.
The Texas Association of Counties Risk Management Pool (TAC RMP) is celebrating its 45th anniversary this year. Its 400-plus members statewide have access to more than half a dozen types of coverage and extensive risk control programs and services.
In reviewing those 45 years of history, TAC RMP’s story is about TAC and its county leaders repeatedly responding to fellow members’ needs as they faced regulatory changes, challenges from the commercial insurance marketplace and the evolving needs of counties. Today TAC RMP is a comprehensive risk management resource, but it began in 1974 as a small pool that provided just one line of coverage.
TAC Workers’ Compensation Fund
Only one year after TAC’s founding in 1969, the U.S. Congress passed the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSHA) and established the National Commission on State Workmen’s Compensation Laws. The commission established 19 guidelines that all state workers’ compensation laws should meet – but Texas complied with only two.
The next year, the Texas Legislature passed SB 283, which brought state laws in compliance with the commission’s guidelines. The law mandated that political subdivisions provide workers’ compensation benefits to their employees.
At the time, counties and cities relied upon medical and accident insurance to compensate workers injured on the job; that cost them about $3-$4 per employee per month, according to testimony given by the Texas Municipal League in 1973 to the Senate Human Resources Committee. When counties were required to provide workers’ compensation coverage instead, their costs jumped to about $10 per employee per month. This caused a financial crisis in many counties.
“Speaking from firsthand knowledge, I can tell you that commercial insurance companies were reluctant to bid on any coverages to counties and when they did, the costs were outrageous,” said former Jackson County Judge and then TAC Executive Director Sam Seale in a 1993 issue of County
He later recalled, “We went out to find a carrier and no one – I mean, no one – wanted to cover county employees because there were a lot of accidents working on the roads or in law enforcement or the jails. If a county did find coverage, you couldn’t afford it.”
In 1973, then-Travis County Auditor Bill Rust and a group of county judges, commissioners and auditors put their heads together to develop a way for counties to share their risk. Under this county leadership, the county-owned TAC Workers’ Compensation Self-Insurance Fund was created in 1974.
“As I recall, the very first month, we had 77 counties join together for pool coverage,” Seale recalled. Within a year, the TAC Workers Compensation Fund members numbered 245.
“I think it ended up being a heck of a good deal for county government,” Rust said during an interview in 2007 with County
. “It was instrumental in showing that there could be some success in that sort of (pooling) effort across the state.”
TAC County Government Risk Management Fund & TAC Property and Casualty Self Insurance Fund
A decade later, counties once again found themselves facing high commercial insurance costs, this time for auto liability and general liability coverage.
“Counties were seeing their premiums increase several-fold — if they could get coverage at all,” said Jim Jean in 2007. Jean was TAC’s Director of Program Administration at the time. “This segment of the industry was going through its ‘hard market’ cycle, and because they did not understand how counties operated, when times got hard, the counties were the first to go.”
So in 1986, county leaders through TAC created the TAC County Risk Management Fund to allow counties to pool their assets and provide these coverages. A few years later, the Pool expanded to include Public Officials Liability and Law Enforcement Liability coverage.
After more than a decade of experiencing the benefits of pooling against risk, counties created the TAC Property/ Casualty Fund in 1989, when fluctuating property insurance coverage rates left counties unable to plan their expenses from year to year.
TAC Pools Key Milestones (1969-1994)
See the full History of TAC timeline at www.50yearsofTAC.org
Merger Creates TAC RMP
All three pools merged Jan. 1, 2008 to create TAC RMP. The move followed a lengthy study by a nine-member Pool Consolidation Work Group, which included Board members from each of the original pools’ boards.
The merger produced several benefits for counties: improved efficiency/decreased administration, increased investment income, decreased reserve costs, more flexible pricing options/package discounts, and long-term rate stability.
“We can consolidate our investments to make more interest each year and in turn, hopefully pass those savings back to the members in the form of better rates,” said then Cooke County Judge Bill Freeman, who was chair of the TAC Workers’ Compensation Fund at the time. “This should also make the management of the pool a lot easier, and more economical than running three separate pools.”
In addition, because the pool’s assets would be spread over a larger, more diverse membership base, county leaders expected TAC RMP’s required reserves could be reduced by as much as 3%, which also translated to more savings for members.
The merger also allowed TAC RMP to offer members the option of “packaged” products that included several different coverages at a discounted rate. This helped TAC better compete with the new practices being put into place by commercial insurers following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
“Under the old structure of the three separate pools, we could never do something like that,” Evan Gonzales, then Lee County judge and chair of TAC RMP Board told County in 2007. “Now, it’s an option that the board can consider. It provides more stability, so we can always meet our members’ needs.”
At the time, TAC leaders said the newly merged pool would initially have 211 counties and 168 county-related entities as its members.
“This consolidation is a great move for Texas counties because it makes the coverage even more secure and stable, and that translates to security for the local taxpayers,” said Karen Norris, TAC Executive Director at the time of the merger.
See the full History of TAC timeline at www.50yearsofTAC.org
TAC Pools Key Milestones (1996-today)
TAC RMP Today
Eleven years after that merger, TAC RMP is a stable, comprehensive source of protection and risk management for 407 members across the state whose annual member contributions in 2018 totaled more than $52 million. The pool retains 98 percent of its members from year to year.
The Pool offers Automobile Liability, Automobile Physical Damage, General Liability, Property Liability and Crime, Law Enforcement Liability, Public Officials Liability, Cyber Liability and Workers’ Compensation coverages.
In 2018, TAC RMP covered 24,776 vehicles, 12,332 buildings and $7.9 billion in buildings, contents, site improvements and mobile equipment across the state through its Property Liability Program. Additionally, its Workers’ Compensation coverage is provided to 53,899 employees and $1.9 billion in payroll. A total of 43,313 employees are covered under its Public Officials Liability Program and 16,801 are covered under its Law Enforcement Liability Program.
“Our ultimate goal is to provide the best coverage and service programs that counties need and protection that they expect from their risk management pool,” said Risk Management Services Director Michael Shannon. “We continue to strive to be county-centric and provide the best coverage on the changing exposures our members have from year to year.”
Learn more about TAC RMP at www.county.org/tacrmp
Risk Control Services Grow Over the Decades
For decades, members of the TAC Risk Management Pool (TAC RMP) and its predecessor pools have received risk control services provided at no cost as an added benefit of their membership.
This effort helps Texas counties and other county governmental entities better protect their workers, their buildings and other assets, and helps them manage taxpayer dollars efficiently.
Risk control services began with just a few field staff and today have evolved into a comprehensive of offerings including training, technical assistance and more. Here’s a look at the major milestones marked along the way.
Shortly after the 1974 creation of the TAC Workers’ Compensation Fund, TAC provided what County
magazine called “safety engineering services.” These helped keep county workers safe and reduced counties’ workers’ comp claims and fund contribution costs.
Over the next decade, TAC’s risk control efforts grew, and by the fall of 1987, the TAC Board identified needs for additional services and staff to better support TAC RMP members, including hiring additional field service personnel. These safety specialists worked with county officials and employees to help counties develop a safety culture in the workplace.
By 1993, TAC had two staff members dedicated solely to providing human resources technical assistance. Then in 1997, the Association hired TAC’s first law enforcement specialist, a former Texas Department of Public Safety Inspector, to visit counties and provide training and other assistance to sheriffs. The need in this area was so great, the Association added a second specialist within a year.
Regional Service Teams
TAC organized its field services staff into four Regional Service Teams in 1998 to ensure each county had a team of professionals dedicated to them. Each team consisted of a Field Representative, a Law Enforcement Specialist and a Personnel Specialist.
Today, depending upon their coverage, TAC RMP members count on a team that consists of a Risk Management Consultant, a Law Enforcement (LE) Consultant, a Risk Control Consultant, and a Human Resources (HR) Consultant. A Member Services Representative and Claims Specialist are also part of each dedicated team.
TAC has taken advantage of changing technology and training techniques over the years. Today, members have access to not only HR, LE and risk control training delivered on-site by a Consultant, but also online training and driving, fire extinguisher and resistance response training, which employ training simulators.
Regional and Statewide Training
Since the 1990s, TAC has provided regional and statewide risk control and risk management training in support of TAC RMP.
For example, County
magazine reported in 1993 that 448 attendees from 182 counties attended that year’s annual TAC Regional Risk Management workshop series, which was held in 10 locations throughout the state. The Association also included pre-conference sessions on managing risk at the 1993 TAC Post Legislative Conference.
Longtime TAC staff member Mike Strawn recalled during an interview with County
magazine in 2014, “In the early ‘90s, we began regional workshops for risk management and workers’ compensation topics. In 1994, we asked if the (Workers’ Compensation) Fund could sponsor a statewide safety loss control conference, and it was a huge success – about 350-400 county officials and department heads attended. … eventually it morphed into the County Management Institute.”
Today, TAC’s annual statewide conference, County Management and Risk Conference (CMRC) attracts more than 400 county officials and managers each year from more than half the state. TAC also hosts Regional Pool Workshops at locations around the state each fall. These one-day events continue the learning from CMRC. In 2018, 164 officials and 170 staff from 144 counties attended.
Safety Awards and Additional Resources
Safety awards were launched in 2004 to recognize those counties and officials who worked hard to establish a safe workplaces and lower their workers’ compensation claims. Today the enhanced annual TAC RMP Awards program continues to reward and recognize member counties and governmental entities for their commitment to controlling claims costs and developing and improving safety and loss control programs. Awards are presented annually during the CMRC.
During the last few years, the TAC RMP Board has approved funding to ensure Pool members can obtain employee personal safety equipment to help protect county employees on the job, whether they are on road and bridge crews or providing law enforcement.
All risk control programs and services are developed with counties’ specific needs in mind.
“Today we mesh technology and our core functions to provide the best on-the-spot risk control solutions for our members,” said Risk Management Services Director Michael Shannon. “We are only a phone call, email or text away from responding to our members’ questions. Our on-site training is still our most used and core service that we provide on a daily basis.”