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Deal Reached On Fixing Troubled Dallas Police And Fire Pension Fund

LM Otero
Associated Press
Kelly Gottschalk, executive director of the Dallas Police & Fire Pension System, speaks during a pension board of trustee meeting in Dallas on Dec. 8, 2016.

After months of negotiations, a deal has been reached on fixing the troubled Dallas Police and Fire Pension Fund.

State Senator Royce West addressed reporters Thursday evening. West says that most of the parties involved have agreed to concepts that will resolve major sticking points. The next step is to draft language and then hold a hearing next week at a state Senate committee, West said.

Officials caution there's still a lot of work ahead of them.

West, a Dallas Democrat, told reporters: “We’ve been able to resolve and come up with a conceptual agreement on the following issues: governance of the pension plan; protecting members’ benefits; allowing the city to take responsibility for the plan; and also providing the city the flexibility to make certain the plan is financially solvent while still dealing with some of the other pressing issues our city has.”

State Sen. Don Huffines, a Dallas Republican, called it a “big accomplishment.”

“It’s important we get everyone in the same boat, that we’re all rowing in the same direction,” Huffines told reporters. The city wants this to work out, and the associations want it to work out. We’ve got to stop the animosity. I’m committed to being a fair broker in this process for all sides.”

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings addressed reporters Thursday evening. He says it’s an agreement in principle – and there’s more work to do – but he’s confident that the city can fix the pension problems.

“These are the men and women that have made us safe, and that we love and honor," Rawlings said at a press conference. "It’s amazing that they put their oath, their personal oath, on this document to say we agree with the city and we need to move forward together. It’s an honor for me to be there.” 

The pension fund could run out of money within a decade if changes aren’t made. State legislators have been working on reforms. 

The Dallas Morning Newsreports:

Under the Senate's version, the pension system would be governed by six trustees chosen by the mayor and five chosen by police and fire groups. The board would need to have a two-thirds majority vote to approve several major items. They include reduction to benefits; the creation of a new retirement plan; increases to the members' contribution rates; decreases to the city's contribution rate; and any pursuit of the controversial "equity adjustments," to regain some of the unsustainable benefits paid out or promised over the years. The Senate bill also limits the city's minimum payment for the first five years. Another minimum payment will take effect in the two following years. Afterward, the city will stick only to the contribution rate based on 34.5 percent of payroll, minus overtime.