Board has plan to fully fund Dallas pension system

The new board in charge of saving the Dallas Police and Fire Pension Fund met for the first time on Thursday.

10,000 police officers, firefighters and their family members depend on the fund. It was exactly one year ago this week that the pension fund board first discussed a run on the bank that threatened to bankrupt the system.

Thursday’s meeting revealed a plan is now in place to fully fund the pension, but many retirees feel like their money was stolen.

There are 11 people who will be making the tough decisions, including what type of hardships qualify as "unforeseeable.”

"People used their DROP account as a savings account because why wouldn't you. You were making a heck of a lot of interest rate right?” said Kelly Gottschalk, the executive director of the pension fund. “They had the money there, thinking when all these things came up they would just take the money out. That was reasonable."

But Mayor Mike Rawlings’ appointee, Robert Walters, questioned if things like a college education for retirees' children or funeral expenses qualify as hardships.

“I'm not comfortable in one of our earliest decisions departing from what the state requires us to do,” Walters said.

Gilbert Garcia was elected by police and firefighters. He wanted to remind trustees that the retirees used to have full access to their pension funds that are now locked away.

During the run on the bank last year, some retirees chose to leave their money in the pension system.

"They all said, ‘Leave your money. We're going to collapse the system if you take your money,’” said Jerry Rhodes a retired police officer. “I left my money. "

Retiree funds were frozen and they are still locked out today.

"So all my money is held hostage by the fund,” said Rick Salinas, a retired firefighter.

"People in my organization have filed bankruptcy and lost their homes,” said Dallas Police Retired Officers Association President Pete Bailey. “They've not been able to pay for weddings for their daughters, for their education that they planned their whole lives for."

By Nov. 1, the new board will vote on how to distribute retirees’ money based on their estimated life spans.

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