Fort Worth city leaders on Thursday pushed toward a compromise to save the city’s troubled pension fund but it remained unclear exactly what the final solution would look like.
The pension, which provides benefits to retired city workers, has a $1.6 billion shortfall and is headed toward insolvency without a fix.
The city council took up the issue for the first time in a budget workshop.
"I think this will result in a compromise,” Mayor Betsy Price said. “I think everybody realizes the severity of it and everybody also realizes we yet have a budget to do that will impact our services."
The police and firefighters associations agreed to chip in more but argued employees would pay too much under Cooke’s solution.
In particular, they objected to one part of the plan, which would cut yearly retiree cost-of-living increases.
"I have a lot of faith and confidence in our council, that they are going to take the city manager's proposal at face value and recognize that it's wrong,” said Michael Glynn, president of the Fort Worth Firefighters Association. “It's just wrong for the retirees. You can't change a benefit that is earned, given and promised."
Council members seemed willing to consider contributing more taxpayer dollars, possibly by reducing the planned two-cent reduction in the city's property tax rate.
“At the end of the day, we have to fix the problem,” Cooke said in an interview following the meeting. “The pension fund is not currently sustainable over the long term. So it does require difficult conversations, difficult choices, and bottom line is we have to solve it."
The council plans to vote on the issue Sept. 18.
Employees would have to sign off on any changes to their pension. If they don’t agree, city leaders said the state could take over the fund and mandate changes.