Fort Worth City Council cleared the way Tuesday night to allow some potentially major changes to the pension fund for city employees. The changes could even affect employees who have already retired.
There were no final decisions made. What the council did was essentially warn the board that oversees the city employees' retirement fund that change may be coming. They have to do that at least 90 days before voting on a plan.
A task force has been working with the city manager on recommendations to keep the pension fund solvent. Right now, it's expected to run out of money between 2040 and 2050.
The city is considering increasing the minimum retirement age when current and future employees can start drawing a pension, and eliminating accumulated sick leave as a means of extending an employee’s years of service.
But the most controversial idea would eliminate, or reduce a two-percent cost-of-living increase that existing retirees get every year through their pension. Retirees at Tuesday night’s council meeting said that's significant.
"We've got retirees who helped pull the city through the 2007 crisis who took furloughs, who went six years without raises so every penny counts," said Marsha Anderson, President of the Fort Worth Coalition of Retired Employees. “It doesn’t seem morally right. We did our jobs. We made our commitments. We met our end of the bargain and it’s like I said earlier tonight, we have to sleep with one eye open now to see what’s going to be taken away next.”
"Previous administrations here in the city of Fort Worth have always said a promise made is a promise kept,” said retired Fort Worth firefighter Jim Tate. “We're not going to take anything away from you that was already promised to you once you're retired. That's why I want to see what this administration is going to say. Are they going to keep that up?"
The city has reduced employee benefits in the past and increased taxpayer contributions to the pension fund but it wasn't enough to make up a major shortfall.
City Council is set to hear final recommendations in August.