Stakes Running High In Battle Over Dallas Police-Fire Pension

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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Dallas councilman Scott Griggs opposes Mayor Mike Rawlings’ effort to kill the state bill aimed at saving the police and fire pension fund, which could go broke within ten years without major changes.

Griggs says, “Not having a bill would mean the end of the pension system. It would quickly collapse.”

The mayor warns city taxpayers would pay an extra $1.35 billion dollars over 30 years with the bill than without it.

Mayor Rawlings has said his concern is that taxpayers will pay that amount no matter how many police officers and firefighters the city hires.

He says that would bind future city councils and hurt taxpayers.

But Kelly Gottachalk, executive director of the Dallas Police & Fire Pension Fund says the Mayor’s funding calculation is wrong, comparing it to fake math.

Gottschalk says under the bill, the city would actually pay an extra $640 million, less than half of what the mayor claims.

She says police officers and firefighters have already agreed to pay an extra $1.2 billion in higher employee contributions to their pension, lower benefits and a higher retirement age.

On Friday, the mayor declined taking questions, referring reporters to a letter he sent taxpayers earlier in the week. “I’m going to let the letter speak for itself.”

In his letter, the Mayor says, “House Pensions Committee Chairman Dan Flynn… continues to press ahead with his unprecedented and unnecessary expensive Dallas pension taxpayer bailout. The current taxpayer bailout package must be voted down…”

But representative Flynn responded in a tweet saying, “Dallas Mayor is no longer dealing in good faith for police and fire retirees, current and new officers.”

Some, like Gottschalk, say they’re concerned rising tensions could kill the bill. “It does worry me.”

But Gottschalk says she’s trying to stay optimistic a solution will pass.

If it doesn’t, she says, “We can’t afford to have this pension fail. We can’t afford to have 7,000 or 10,000 people lose their entire pension.”

Councilman Griggs says, “This is a bill that can’t be killed. This is the biggest crisis in the city of Dallas we’ve had in more than a generation here.”

He says the city shouldn’t argue over how much extra money it will have to spend to save the pension fund.

Griggs says state lawmakers need to give the city the ability to raise money to pay for the changes, then have residents vote on it.

That provision is not part of the state bill under consideration.

The city and state are still negotiating with state lawmakers, and the Texas House could vote on the bill next week.

If approved, it will then go to the Texas Senate.

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