Houston’s 3 pension systems united on reform plan, mayor says

sylvester turner

HOUSTON — Less than three days before city council is scheduled to cast its vote, Mayor Sylvester Turner announced Monday morning that all three city pensions systems have signed off on his reform plan.

Turner said the Houston Firefighters’ Relief and Retirement Fund, the Houston Police Officers’ Pension System and the Houston Municipal Employee Pension System have agreed to endorse the proposal, which is expected to eliminate $7.8 billion in unfunded pension debt. The plan restricts operating cost for the pensions to specified range and require a 30-year evaluation versus annual negotiation, Turner said during a presentation in September. If costs rise above that range, operators will be forced to reduce spending in order to fall back within in the range, the mayor said.

“This is a special moment for the city because it represents the first time ever that all three pension systems have come to the table and worked in a productive manner,” Turner said in a release. “Everyone is on the same page, and we are moving forward as a united front. We’ve all known there would have to be changes.  I wish it had happened 15 years ago.  It did not; so it is up to us to make it happen.  This plan takes the issue off the table for good.”

Turner said the proposal will provide a sustainable benefits plan for firefighters, law enforcement officers and municipal workers while keeping costs affordable for taxpayers. The plan also sets a 30-year payoff date for the remaining debt and force a return to the negotiating table, and automatic changes if no agreement is reached, if annual pension costs exceed pre-agreed limits.

The Houston City Council will vote Wednesday on the proposal. If approved, the plan must then be signed by Texas legislators.