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Council Report: Pension plan fixes sent to Texas Legislature

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The city council got an informal report March 26 confirming the submission of its pension fund restoration plan to the Legislature.

In early December, the council approved a plan that over time will erase the city’s $1.6 billion liability, which had the fund heading to insolvency in two or three decades.

Cities are required to report any updates toward improved actuarial soundness to the state every two years.

“What we’ve tried to do is document what took place over the last three years — one, so there’s a record of it for historical reference purposes,” said City Manager David Cooke. “And the other is we just packaged it all together and decided that was the soundest funding restoration plan we’re presenting to the state.”

The summary of changes in contributions includes:

*Increase the city’s contribution an additional 4.5 percent of payroll.

*General employee contributions up 1.1 percent with an additional 0.7 percent each year for the number of years of credited service prior to Oct. 1, 2013

*Police and fire up 3.8 percent, with police to be phased in over three years and fire over two years.

*Police 25 years and out up 0.6 percent.

The changes in benefits include:

*Modification of the current 2 percent simple cost of living adjustment (COLA) for active members not yet retired or in deferred retirement option plans (DROP) within two years to a variable benefit based on fund performance (“grandfather” of active employees who retire or enter the DROP on or before Dec. 31, 2020).

*Elimination of service credit for future accruals of major medical and sick leave.

*Employee contributions to be based on city contributory payroll (includes overtime).

*Increase from a five-year DROP to a six-year DROP.

Employees have not previously contributed with their overtime pay.

There are no changes to the retiree COLA as the simple 2 percent will be retained.

The minimum retirement age of 55 now applies only to general employees hired since July 2011. It has been removed for fire and future service for general employees. Also, the additional DROP year is only available after July 20, 2019.

All vested terminations (employees who worked for more than five years, left, but kept their money in the system) refer to the variable COLA, unless they are drawing retirement by Jan. 1, 2021.


The city council on March 26 approved the annexation of several pieces of property in the Alliance/Denton area.

District 7 Councilman and Mayor Pro Tem Dennis Shingleton said all the land falls within his district and most has been zoned industrial and will be mainly used for warehouses.

“There’s a tremendous need for those. It’s right against I-35, so it seems like a reasonable use,” he said.

Shingleton said the annexation of all the land is voluntary.

“They want to be annexed. They want to be part of the city, and we welcome them,” he said.

The annexed land includes about 229 acres north of Alliance Airport, south of State Highway 114, and along FM 156.

The council also approved a zoning change for about 110 acres in the 1500 block of FM 156 to be used for industrial purposes. Jeanne Shelton of Dallas owns 53 acres of the property and Alliance 156 Partners of Aubrey owns 57 acres.


The city council adopted an ordinance March 26 increasing receipts and appropriations in the Culture and Tourism Operating Fund up to $150,000 to fund the Dash Electronic Bus Service. It also authorized an interlocal agreement with the Fort Worth Transportation Authority (Trinity Metro) to fund a portion of operating costs for the bus of $150,000 for each of the next three years.

The electric bus service, known as The Dash, is designed to link the Cultural District and downtown Fort Worth by way of West Seventh Street. Service will be on 15-minute intervals, seven days a week with Sunday through Thursday hours of 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., and Friday and Saturday hours of 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 a.m.

Service is expected to begin on Sept. 22.

Trinity Metro secured over $6.2 million in funding from the North Central Texas Council of Governments for five electric buses and charging stations. The buses are expected to arrive in April. Funding for operations of the service (an estimated $1.4 million annually) will be shared between Trinity Metro (75 percent), City of Fort Worth, and private entities along the corridor.

The city’s contribution is contingent on final matching fundraising to be raised from the private entities.

“A multi-modal transportation system that provides options for the residents of Fort Worth and those who visit our city is imperative to our future success and quality of life,” said District 9 Councilwoman Ann Zadeh. “The Dash, a grassroots effort, began five years ago to prove that there is pent-up demand for transit. This is an innovative approach by Trinity Metro by creating a public/private partnership after the grassroots group secured the funding for the electric vehicles from NCTCOG for the Dash.

“A survey was conducted of over 1,000 people that live or work along the route, and there is over 80 percent interest to leave the car behind for short-distance trips, like shopping, lunch and other entertainment.”

Funds for future years will be included in the city manager’s proposed budgets in the Culture and Tourism Operating Fund.


The city council approved a new tax abatement with Winner LLC (Facebook) at its March 26 meeting.

Fort Worth Economic Development Director Robert Sturns said Facebook has invested over $1 billion and is growing faster than expected.

Facebook is planning to expand at the northeast intersection of Park Vista Boulevard and State Highway 170, near the existing Facebook campus.

“I was out there last week. It’s the biggest singular footprint of any one building I’ve seen,” District 7 Councilman and Mayor Pro Tem Dennis Shingleton said.

The project overview includes:

*Redevelop and expand existing QTS Data Center on 51.9 acre site.

*Site will be composed of a minimum of 100,000 square foot and data center.

*Original agreement allowed for additional investment on any subsequent land acquired within a half-mile radius of the original data center site.

*In order to establish this new land as eligible for an incentive, a new tax abatement agreement and reinvestment zone must be established.

Facebook agrees to:

*A capital investment of $150 million in real and business personal property by Dec. 31, 2021, $50 million for data center and $100 million in equipment.

*Employment goal of at least four full-time jobs at an average wage of $43,992.

*Commitment of 15 percent on both hard and soft construction costs with use of certified Minority/Women Business Enterprise companies.

The incentive includes:

*The city will provide a one-year tax abatement of 20 percent of the incremental real and personal property (so that Tarrant County can participate in tax abatement).

*New spending will count under the existing economic program agreement that allows additional investment within a half-mile radius of original data center to count under total investment.

The city tax revenue will be an estimated $1,256,875.

Shingleton said the agreement was an easy decision to make, given how Facebook has endeared itself to the community.

“I can’t tell you how many thousands of dollars they have given to worthy causes,” he said. “They’re a good neighbor. We very much welcome them.”

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