FORT WORTH, Texas - The Fort Worth City Council put off a vote on the controversial change to the city’s retirement plan.
As of right now, the pension is forecasted to go broke in 21 years. The plan covers 10,000 current and retired city employees, including police officers and firefighters. The proposal would raise pension contributions and limit the cost of living adjustments.
A group of Fort Worth firefighters and police officers gathered near city hall for a rally of sorts before Tuesday’s council meeting. They ordered pizza and passed out t-shirts that said, “A promise made. A promise kept.” It was meant to support current retirees.
The first responders were hoping to sway enough of the council to vote no or at least table the issue to give it more time.
The city's pension faces a future shortfall of $1.6 billion. To fix it, city leaders have proposed increasing contributions from employees and reducing the cost of living adjustment (COLA) for current retirees.
The COLA is something employees and retirees don’t want touched. It’s at 2 percent now. The proposal would drop it to 1 percent.
Several retirees stood alongside current employees in the packed city hall Tuesday night. Many of them like Angela Jay said they depend on the COLA to make ends meet.
"There's people that have retired 20 years ago that are living at poverty level or close to poverty level and this is all they have. This is all we have,” Jay said. “We dedicated ourselves to the city of Fort Worth. They made us promises when I hired on, and they're not following through."
The council was expected to vote at the meeting but instead decided to hold off on a decision until December. Now the task is for everyone to get on the same page.
“We don’t consider the COLA an earned benefit. It’s a cost of living based on where the economy is,” Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price said.
“They served the city. The city made a promise to them. It’s really a pretty simple and easy decision to make. You keep your promise,” said Michael Glynn, a member of the Fort Worth Fire Fighters Association.
After the council does vote, employees must still approve the changes. If a decision is not reached, the mayor said the pension could be decided by state legislators who head back to work in Austin in January.
Mayor Price said if that happens, she expects a pension plan that is similar to the one in Dallas and Houston.