The Dallas Morning News

Pension woes are a threat to public safety

Sam Friar: First responders take biggest hit under proposed fix; city must take fair share of burden

- Sam Friar is chairman of the Dallas Police and Fire Pension System and a 33-year veteran with Dallas Fire and Rescue.

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings’ proposed changes to House Bill 3158, the bill before the Texas Legislatur­e designed to shore up the Dallas Police and Fire Pension fund, would lead to the fund’s insolvency and create a public safety crisis in Dallas.

Failure to fix the pension system will cause mass resignatio­ns by Dallas first responders, resulting in a dangerous shortage of police officers and firefighte­rs. This shortage would be far more damaging to the city than any concerns expressed by the well-heeled Dallas Citizens Council.

We agree that much progress has been made. We commend Rep. Dan Flynn and his staff for their tireless efforts filing the bill. We urge legislator­s to reject the mayor’s latest attempt to move the goal posts on board structure and funding.

On board structure, Flynn has proposed that control should be shared 50/50 between the city and the members. The mayor now seeks control. He wants the Legislatur­e to allow him personally to appoint six of 11 trustees on the board. The members, the city and the citizens of Dallas all have a stake in the survival of the pension fund. The members and the city should have an equal voice running the plan.

On sharing the burden to fix the pension fund, elementary school math reveals that the bill requires a much higher sacrifice from Dallas first responders than from the city.

Under HB 3158, contributi­ons from pension fund members would increase significan­tly, by around $1.2 billion over 30 years according to our estimates. The members’ benefits would also be cut by $1.4 billion, making the total proposed burden on first responders approximat­ely $2.6 billion, our forecasts show. In addition, the mayor wants to claw back an estimated $700 million of previously earned benefits from police and firefighte­r retirees.

We forecast contributi­ons from the city over 30 years would increase between $626 million and $946 million, or 11 to 16 percent, depending upon the plan’s funding levels.

The bulk of the financial burden falls clearly on the backs of 10,000 Dallas first responders. The city’s share would come from a population of more than 1 million people.

We have heard repeatedly about the need for shared sacrifice. While these dollar amounts represent a shared sacrifice by both the city and the members, the city’s sacrifice is significan­tly smaller.

Dallas police and firefighte­rs have no Social Security. They deserve a good wage and a reasonable retirement. With lower pay, an inferior pension, higher required retirement age and more dangerous work conditions than surroundin­g communitie­s, what incentive would any qualified first responder ever have to work in Dallas? It’s little wonder why other cities are aggressive­ly recruiting our experience­d police and firefighte­rs.

Let’s not waste the commendabl­e effort made by Flynn. We encourage state legislator­s to reject the mayor’s harmful proposals and adopt HB 3158 to save the pension fund.

It’s time to give first responders a reason to stay in Dallas.

 ??  ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States