DALLAS (CBS11) – Charles Hale retired last April after 32 years as a Dallas police officer. “I’m pretty worried. I think anyone would.”
He worries he’ll lose a quarter of his pension as leaders try to figure out how to save the Dallas Police and Fire Pension Fund that could run out of money in five to ten years.
“That money has been set aside to basically take care of my mostly obligations and now without that, I have to have some other means to do that,” said Hale.
The pension board chairman, Sam Friar, says the problem is, talks with the city to reach a deal on a permanent fix aren’t going well. “We’re at a stalemate now.”
Friar says if the city, pension board, police and firefighters can’t agree on a solution soon, the state legislature will come up with its own solution.
He says State Rep. Dan Flynn, (R-Canton), who’s leading efforts in the Capitol to pass a bill that would fix the pension system, recently told him, “If we and the city don’t come to an agreement over a bill, that they would do their own bill and that’s exactly what’s happening right now.”
Friar says they don’t want the legislature to approve a long-term solution without local input.
He says there’s no specific deadline to reach an agreement to fix the pension fund, but that the deadline is approaching. “Sooner or later, there’s going to be a solid drop-dead date, anything beyond that will be their bill.”
A new law needs to be approved by the time the state legislative session ends in late May.
Friar’s comments come one day after four Dallas city council members who sit on the pension board asked a Dallas County judge to have a third party take over the troubled fund temporarily to help keep it alive until there’s a long-term solution.”
“It’s counter-productive to what we’re trying to do here,” said Friar. “They are board members, they see first hand what we’re going through, but at the same time, they’re going to file suit to try to control the situation, maybe even take over the board.”
City council member Jennifer Staubach-Gates though says she and her colleagues felt as if they had no choice. “The eventual goal is to save this pension fund and the road we’re headed down now is to insolvency. We know we’re going to have an insolvency problem unless there’s a fix on the table and we don’t see a fix on the table.”
Despite that, Staubach-Gates says she’s still confident an agreement to fix the pension fund long-term can be reached. “Yes.”
One retired firefighter, Joel Lavender, may have summed up the situation best when addressing the board. “There’s animosity between the city, the firefighters, the pension board because no one trusts each other.”
“I wish they would fix it, but I don’t think it’s going to happen,” said Hale. “There’s another motive at work.”
In addition to the pension fund problems, the City of Dallas is also facing a lawsuit over backpay that dates back nearly 40 years.
If the city loses the case, they could owe the police officers and firefighters who sued up to $4 billion.
If that’s the case, Mayor Mike Rawlings has already said the city would have to declare bankruptcy.
The case goes to trial May 8.
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