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With Dallas Police And Fire Pension Fund In Trouble, City Explores Solutions

Kenny Tong

On Friday, a state district judge ruledthat members of the troubled Dallas Police and Fire Pension Fund can vote on proposed benefit cuts. Some firefighters and police officers had filed a lawsuit in part to block members from voting on the cuts. The pension fund has been struggling – and some worry it could ultimately bankrupt the city.

Tristan Hallman is a reporter with The Dallas Morning News. He's been reporting on the pension woes.

Interview Highlights: Tristan Hallman ...

... on how the Dallas Police And Fire Pension Fund got into trouble: "They invested a lot in risky real estate investments. What happened was they were valuing them at the cost they paid for them and not the actual value. Once the new fund administration came in, they ripped off the Band-Aid and said 'look, we don't have as much money as we think we have, our investments are not solid. They're not bringing in the returns we want.' They're in a lot of trouble."

... on what Dallas city leaders think about a potential bailout: "The mayor obviously does not want to pay that amount of money; there are many City Council members who don't want to pay $1 billion. There are other options too — paying money over time. The current benefit cuts that [pension fund members are] actually voting on — they are not really what they want to see. They want to see more. They want to see deeper cuts."

... on when Dallas residents should start being concerned: "You should be worried about it now. This is something that is going to affect everyone who lives in Dallas. You have to imagine that there is going to be some tax implication from this. There's going to be at least some fees. The city knows they are going to have to pay money, that they have to if they want have secure retirements for police and firefighters. It also affects you if you want police and firefighters. I mean a lot are retiring or quitting just because of this pension issue because they can withdraw their money and get out and make sure that they're personally financially safe. You're losing experience from police officers and firefighters in the process, and we haven't been able to hire as many to replace them. So, it's a big problem and that's why the city knows that they have to contribute money because we need public safety."

Tristan Hallman is a reporter with The Dallas Morning News. Find him on Twitter at @TristanHallman.

Justin Martin is KERA’s local host of All Things Considered, anchoring afternoon newscasts for KERA 90.1. Justin grew up in Mannheim, Germany, and avidly listened to the Voice of America and National Public Radio whenever stateside. He graduated from the American Broadcasting School, and further polished his skills with radio veteran Kris Anderson of the Mighty 690 fame, a 50,000 watt border-blaster operating out of Tijuana, Mexico. Justin has worked as holiday anchor for the USA Radio Network, serving the U.S. Armed Forces Network. He’s also hosted, produced, and engineered several shows, including the Southern Gospel Jubilee on 660 KSKY.