Dallas Police, Fire Pension Reaches Boiling Point

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings and leaders of the Dallas Pension Board faced off in Austin Thursday at a meeting with state pension regulators.

The fund is billions of dollars short for future liabilities with taxpayers on the hook for possible solutions.

"We have taken the position that the sacrifice has to be shared," Rawlings said. "We will protect the stable retirement of our police and fire employees without overburdening the taxpayers of Dallas."

Dallas pension officials requested an immediate billion-dollar cash infusion that would raise property taxes 130 percent, according to Rawlings. Coupled with a possible $4 billion liability from a pending back pay lawsuit, the mayor said the huge cash requirements could force Dallas into bankruptcy.

Multiple Dallas police and firefighter associations held a news conference Thursday afternoon to voice their frustration with the decision by negotiators from Dallas City Hall to end mediation on the police and firefighter pension.

Pension officials said the mayor's words helped cause the $600 million run on the fund last year with withdrawals from Deferred Retirement Option Plan savings accounts, which made the situation worse.

State Pension Review Board members suggested Thursday they support limits on DROP withdrawals to protect the fund's ability to pay base pension benefits.

"Monthly disbursements as part of the base benefit is very important. It probably ranks above DROP disbursals," said State Pensions Review Board Chairman Josh McGee.

Retirees fighting to keep all their benefits, including access to DROP savings, spoke at the Austin meeting.

"We watched our spending, we planned, we saved, and now we cannot enjoy our retirement because of someone's political agendas and their incompetence," said police retiree Pat Sanchez.

The Dallas first responders pension crisis has reached a boiling point.

The Texas Legislature must approve final changes to the Dallas Police and Fire Pension System since it was created by state lawmakers.

Negotiations were reported at a stalemate earlier this week, but Dallas Police and Fire Pension Administrator Kelly Gottschalk said there have been compromises on many issues.

"We're moving forward very, very quickly, and hopefully we can achieve our goal," she said.

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