Report criticizes transparency of Dallas Police and Fire Pension System

A private foundation is calling out the Dallas Police and Fire Pension System for not being transparent enough in a new report.

The foundation released the report Thursday as a warning to other Texas cities. The economist who wrote the report recommends giving Dallas control of the pension system and that the city consider a defined contribution plan for new hires where benefits are based on the market, rather than a guaranteed amount.

Right now pension members vote to give and cut their own benefits and the City of Dallas, which may have to ultimately bail the plan out, is powerless and in the dark.

"I think we face a real lack of transparency. We need to better understand the plan's assets, outflows, and get a handle on the current situation, so we don't run into a situation where there is a cash crunch that limits the plans ability to make benefit payments,” said economist Josh McGee.

Dallas City Councilman Lee Kleinman the city has to file open records requests with the pension system to get information.

"If the money's running out, we can't do anything to stop it,” Kleinman said.

That's why Kleinman is working with lawmakers to get the city control of the fund.

"Getting that control back will then enable the city to put in certain protections to make sure the fund remains liquid and solvent,” Kleinman said.

To save the fund, McGee believes the city should consider a defined contribution plan for new hires over a defined benefit plan.

"Situation now is putting worker's retirement at risk,” McGee said. "Hard to argue the current system has protected them."

But both Kleinman and the president of The Texas Association of Public Employee Retirement Systems argue it would be harder to attract police and firefighters without guaranteed retirement benefits.

"They can go to North Texas somewhere and get the same amount of money and same benefit package," said Paul Brown, TEXPERS president.

Ultimately, McGee believes the city can't be part of a bailout if the city can't even see the books. The city will need to present a reform plan to Texas lawmakers in January and to get it passed, the pension board will need to support that plan.

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