Families await Dallas Police and Fire Pension Board decision

 

 

Current and former Dallas police and firefighters are still anxiously waiting to see what happens next with their retirement accounts.

A judge has cleared the way for limited monthly payments from an account known as DROP, but the pension board has the final say on what happens with the fund.

Dallas Police Officer Mike Csaszar's brother Alexander retired from DPD in 2014 after 29 years of service. He said the freeze on drop withdrawals has thrown his entire family into a financial crisis.

"In my brother's case, it's for a nursing home facility to take care of him. And now as of January 1st, he will not have access to that money to take care of him,” Mike said.

Mike says his brother's condition has deteriorated to the point where he needs constant care. With the court ruling that allows monthly withdrawals to resume, he's hoping the pension board will lift their freeze quickly.         

"It was very difficult for my family to have this illness that happened to my brother and dealing with that is more difficult and then you have deal with the City of Dallas and the pension and the mayor trying to cut off the money that will sustain my brother, they should be ashamed of themselves for doing that,” Mike said.

State Representative Dan Flynn (R-Van) oversees all pension systems in the state. In Dallas on Wednesday, he met with the mayor and city manager and later with pension board members and staff.

"It's a heartbreak that people have to face that a time in their life when they are in crisis,” Flynn said.

Flynn's message was clear to everyone involved -- do not come to Austin without a plan that both sides can agree on. He also wants that plan well before the start of the legislative session Jan. 10.

"I'm encouraged. I'm more encouraged than I've been in weeks,” Flynn said.

A self-described optimist, Flynn says he wants to have a "Pension Plan Bill" ready with backing from North Texas legislators when the gavel drops.

Representatives from seven police and fire associations met with the pension system leadership. They say they're pushing ahead on looking to state lawmakers for a solution.

“I think it was a step in the right direction,” said Frederick Frazier with the Dallas Police Association. “Just like when we leave the city, sometimes we feel like well at least there's another step in the right direction. You want to bang your head on the wall, but you finally get somewhere. We're finally getting somewhere.”

The city of Dallas has proposed cuts that the Executive Director of the Dallas Police and Fire Pension system says would take back benefits already promised to retirees.

“We really think it’s not right to take away benefits that have been granted and paid to members. So that’s just really one of the issues,” said Kelly Gottszhalk. “We just want to protect the benefits that have been granted. Moving forward, we're open to change.”

“We understand that the city's in a pinch, that the pensions in a pinch, but we want to help out,” said Michael Walton with the Dallas Fraternal Order of Police. “But at the same time, we want our members and our retirees to be able to live off their wage that they've earned.”

Mike Csaszar says the pension board needs to think carefully.

"You need to get a grip, take a deep breath and understand that the decisions that you make impact these families long term,” he said.

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The pension board will meet again next Thursday.

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