El Paso — Working more closely than ever on a cramped stage at the downtown library auditorium, El Paso City Council today held a long, cooperative session with members of the police and firefighter unions. Their common goal is to increase funding for the police and firefighter retirement pension, which is running about 20 percent short of the amount promised to retirees.
Right now, the city puts in about 55 cents for every dollar into the fund, while union members cover the other 45 cents. Police Lt. Tyler Grossman, chairman of the Police and Firefighter Pension Board, says that represents a bargain for El Paso taxpayers. In most big Texas cities, he says, taxpayers pay more than 55 percent. Grossman is looking for more help from the city to shore up the fund. "We're looking for a contribution increase, and in totality for the city that would amount to just under three million dollars per year that they would contribute to the fund"
In return, union members seem willing to put more skin into the game. To increase their own pension contributions, police and firefighters would take about a two percent pay cut, and that money would go directly into the fund.
Emma Acosta, the city rep for District 3, notes that the city's police and firefighters don't pay into Social Security or receive Social Security benefits in retirement. For many, a monthly pension check becomes their only income.
"We don't seem to have a problem buying buildings, ten million, twenty million",Acosta tells us. "But we have a problem when it comes to personnel issues, and these are the men and women who keep this city safe,"
The city won't take any definite action before reviewing an independent audit on the relationship between cities and police and firefighter pensions. That report is expected at any time.