Dallas Police and Fire Pension Board Likely to Reject City’s Proposed Plan

DALLAS – With fewer than four months remaining for the Dallas Police and Fire Pension Fund and the City of Dallas to reach an agreement on a plan to ensure the pension remains solvent, significant differences persist. In an interview with Kelly Gottschalk, the executive director of the fund, it was revealed that both sides are still far apart on several key issues.

“We feel it every time we go to the grocery store,” said retired deputy chief David Elliston, who spent 38 years with the Dallas Police Department. With no cost-of-living adjustment in nearly eight years, Elliston’s pension check has diminished in value.

Kelly Gottschalk, the Executive Director of the Dallas Police and Fire Pension system, acknowledges the financial strain on members. Hired in 2015 to save the pension system from bankruptcy due to bad investments by the previous director and board, Gottschalk has seen the fund’s purchasing power drop nearly 30 percent since 2016 due to inflation.

“Right now, if they had $1,000 in their pension, they would only be able to buy $700 worth of items that they could have bought in 2016 for $1,000,” she explained.

A state law mandates the pension board to submit a permanent plan by November 1, 2024. The city’s proposal offers retirees a one-time 1% increase, followed by 1% stipends that do not add to the base benefit. These stipends would average about $540 a year until 2046.

“To go another 22 years without a cost-of-living adjustment would be devastating for the members,” Gottschalk stated.

In contrast, the pension board’s plan proposes a formula increasing benefits by about $100 each year. For example, a retiree with 20 years of service and 8 years as a retiree would receive an $800 stipend in 2025, $900 in 2026, and $1,000 in 2027.

Gottschalk highlighted that these increases still fall short of the 5% annual adjustment civilian employees receive based on the Consumer Price Index. Since 2016, civilian employees have seen a 28% increase compared to the 0% for pension fund members.

If the city and the pension board cannot agree on a plan, the pension board’s plan will take precedence unless state lawmakers pass new legislation. Gottschalk remains hopeful for a mutual agreement but is uncertain if it will be achieved.

The pension fund faces a $3.5 billion shortfall that the city needs to address.

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