Both sides of police pension billboard debate

GALVESTON, Texas (FOX 26) — The battle brewing in Galveston over the police pension is getting lots of attention since a billboard on display highlighted the problem. What’s the solution? FOX 26 News asked that very question. Everyone agrees the pension plan for the brave men and women who protect and serve in Galveston has serious issues. What they can’t seem to see eye-to-eye on is how to fix it.          

"It's just this tug of war of who’s going to give up more,” says former Galveston City Council member  Terrilyn Tarlton-Shannon.  

The fight has been fueling for years and as a member of Galveston City Council since 2012 Tarlton-Shannon has been right here as police face off with the City of Galveston to get better pension benefits. 

"It’s kind of like we want it all or nothing and I don’t think that’s the way we should be negotiating with them," adds Tarlton-Shannon. 

The billboard put up by the police association reads, "Thank you for visiting Galveston, home of the worst police retirement in Texas” stands high over Interstate 45 and has a lot of people talking.

"This is not a situation where one party is to blame," explains Josh McGee, chairman of the Texas Pension Review Board. "Many of the actors here made decisions that led to insufficient contributions and now it’s time to fix that situation.” How do you fix it? 

The term-limited Tarlton-Shannon wants the city to pay more into the pension fund.  "Yes I do," says Tarlton-Shannon. "I feel very strongly about that." 

Police and city representatives have gone before the Texas Pension Review Board seeking a solution. 

"This is one of the most severely underfunded plans in the state,” adds McGee. The chairman says employee contributions are already pretty high, so the only likely way to put more money into the fund is if the city agrees to pay more. 

"To fix this we need the city to take a lot more ownership of this plan and put in the necessary contributions,” describes McGee. 

The city is willing to give more if it is receives equal representation on the seven-member police pension board but Tarlton-Shannon says since 1998, police officers making up the majority hasn’t been a problem. She says most of the votes on contribution changes have been unanimous. 

"So I don’t think that’s an issue," says Tarlton-Shannon. "I think it’s a good excuse."    

The state pension review board can only make recommendations on how to fix the problem. Each side can choose to accept or ignore the suggestions.

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