An agreement has been reached on the pension plan for thousands of retired Dallas police officers and firefighters. The plan was chosen over the city's proposed plan and came during a special President's Day meeting to find a solution to the troubled fund.
The agreement means retirees could receive an equal amount of money each year based on the average life expectancy of 78 years old, and the city would funnel an extra $22 million each year to fund the payouts. At Monday morning's special meeting, the room was filled to capacity.
There was a whirlwind of emotions at the meeting, from clapping, to tears and obvious tension, both from board members and from those whose futures hang in the balance.
"I think we're being treated like animals to a certain degree, and I was hesitant to even come down here today," said Frank Varner, a retired Dallas firefighter.
Varner's story mirrors that of countless others.
For months, the retirees have been waiting for a resolution to the Dallas Police and Fire Pension Fund crisis that has crippled retirement accounts.
"How do you fix broken promises? These people deserve better. The firefighters and officers working today deserve better," said Mike Mata, a Dallas police officer and president of the Dallas Police Association.
For weeks, city leaders and pension board members have been haggling over a long-term solution to the financially strained fund, and frustration reached a fever pitch Monday morning.
"Do not follow (Mayor) Mike Rawlings. He's not a leader. He's embarrassed this city. It's poor leadership," said retired Dallas police officer Dale Erves.
The pension board weighed two options: a city proposal in which retirees would lose more than $3.5 billion in benefit cuts, or no cuts but other concessions including life expectancy payouts under a plan from State Rep. Dan Flynn, R-Canton. The pension board voted unanimously for Flynn's plan.
The decision appeared to instantly provide some relief.
"It's a better option, but the city should step up and give us what was promised to us. There shouldn't have to be a choice between plans," said retired Dallas police officer Herman Sawyer.
Pension board members say there's still much work to be done, and they plan to ask for modifications to Flynn's proposal which would take between 40 and 53 years to fully pay back the pension fund.
Any solution must be approved by state lawmakers before the legislative session ends in late May.