Fort Worth City Council approves pension fund fix

The Fort Worth City Council voted to approve a plan Tuesday night to fix the employee pension fund, which is facing a $1.6 billion shortfall.

Now, the city's employees and first responders are required to approve it for it to take effect.

The city and employee representatives approved a change in one of the benefits that is favorable for retirees but not for current employees or new hires.

The council listened to public input and then voted before it was passed. Kelly Allen Gray was the only one to vote no.

Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price thanked a lot of people for the vote. But to call it a success depends on who you talk to.

The Fort Worth City Council approves a changed, and some say, improved version of the pension fix. The fund for 10,000 current and retired employees is forecasted to go broke in 20 to 30 years with a shortfall of $1.6 billion.

The controversial COLA, or Cost of Living Adjustment for retirees, had been on the chopping block. But over the past month after meetings with employee unions, the city decided to keep the cost of living raise for current retirees and those within two years of retirement.

It was a sigh of relief for retirees like Angela Jay, a former police detective.

"Like I said before, it's the only opportunity we have to get any kind of raise or any kind of more money,” she said. “And when you're on a fixed income, that's very important."

The rest of the employees, including new hires, aren't rejoicing as much. The proposal either gives them no COLA when they retire or they can elect to have one that only pays out if the market does well. It’s why the employee unions have remained neutral on the plan. They won't support it or reject it.

The council vote moves the ball forward, but that doesn't resolve the issue. Current employees would have to approve it to avoid having it kicked down to Austin for lawmakers to decide.

It has Mayor Price cautiously optimistic.

"This is our issue locally,” she said. “We want to settle it here, and we know what works best for the city of Fort Worth. Hopefully, our employees will know that this is a good offer."

For the matter to pass with employees, 51 percent must approve it That's a little more than 33,000 current employees that have to vote yes on the plan.

"It's got a chance. But everyone's affected differently, and so everyone's in a different place personally,” said Michael Glynn with the Fort Worth Firefighters Association. “So there's a lot of members who have a reason to vote for it, and a number of members that might struggle to find a reason."

Over the next few weeks, city staff will hold meetings with employees to educate them about the plan. Then, it'll be up to employees to cast their vote in January.