Fort Worth city employees approve pension fund fix

Fort Worth city employees approved changes to their pension fund to keep it from running out of money.

The retirement fund is in jeopardy of going broke in as little as 20 years.        

The police, fire and civilian employees and retirees voted Monday on a compromise deal that the city council approved in December. Eligible pension fund members will contribute nearly three percent more each year and taxpayers will contribute four-and-a-half percent more.

Most seem to be happy with the result that protects those on fixed incomes. Reaching a deal keeps negotiations out of the hands of state lawmakers.

The city addressed the pension fund Monday for nearly 10,000 current and retired city employees that would have collapsed in 20 to 30 years with a $1.6 billion shortfall.

Michael Glynn is president of the Fort Worth Professional Firefighters Association, which has remained neutral on the deal.

“We had some movement and some concessions by the city to show they were willing to protect those COLAs for retirees,” he said.

The controversial COLA, or Cost of Living Adjustment, for retirees had been on the chopping block. But after meeting 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 less favorable news for the rest or new hires. The deal 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 unclear how long will the fix will last.

“Nobody’s got a crystal ball,” said Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price. “So we don’t have any way of knowing what it might do long term, but it certainly holds, I hope, for the next 5 to 10 years.”

Still, most see a victory in simply reaching a deal locally. The results still need to be canvassed, but nearly 60 percent of those eligible for a pension voted in favor of the compromise plan. If it was voted down, the issue would have been kicked to state lawmakers, leaving all sides a lot less certain.