Mayor, city attorney propose new firefighter pension plan

New plan would applicable only to firefighters hired after plan's effective date

By Syan Rhodes - Anchor/Reporter

HOUSTON - Mayor Annise Parker and City Attorney David Feldman revealed details of a proposed new Houston firefighter pension plan.

Feldman briefed the council budget committee on the new pension plan Thursday afternoon. It includes changes to retirement eligibility, making the minimum age 55 and adding a requirement of 10 years of service.

Under the current system, the Houston Firefighters Relief and Retirement Fund, the requirement is 20 years of service regardless of age.

Overtime would not be included in determining payouts and the employee contribution would be more than the current 9 percent.

The new plan would applicable only to firefighters hired after the plan's effective date, according to the Mayor's Office. Existing firefighters would continue to be covered by the current plan.

"The new plan provides the local control we had been seeking from the state legislature," said Parker.

The mayor said she is proposing the new plan "because it is the right thing for the city of Houston."

She said the current firefighter pension plan costs taxpayers too much money and that the new place would save $110 million over the next 20 years.

Firefighters told the council committee Thursday the mayor's proposal is full of benefit cuts and broken promises and could make it harder to recruit new hires.

"We don't like it because it proposes changes to a plan we don't think is broken," said Bryan Sky-Eagle, president of the Houston Professional FireFighters Association.

The City Council still needs to approve the proposal.

According to the Mayor's Office, other key components of the plan are:

  • Pension formula allows for retirement benefits up to 80% of base pay
  • Retirement no earlier than age 55 and with at least 10 years of service
  • Retirement benefits calculated based on the employee's highest consecutive 78-periods of base pay
  • Required employee contributions of nine percent of base pay or one-third of the total actuarially determined contribution rate, whichever is greater
  • Maximum lump sum payout of 20 percent of a member's annuity
  • Survivor annuity for spouse and eligible children
  • Supplemental annuity of $150 per month
  • On duty death benefit equal to 100 percent of base pay

In January the city of Houston filed suit against the firefighters pension fund to gain more access and input on the plan, but a state court rejected that suit. The city is appealing that ruling.

Copyright 2014 by All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.