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Pension deal reached

I was wondering about this when I saw the story about the city budget being adopted earlier today. It was just a matter of time, I guess.

The city and its largest pension fund have reached a tentative agreement on benefit changes for new employees designed to reduce the system’s more than $1 billion unfunded liability, Mayor Bill White’s office announced this morning.

The agreement still needs approval of the Houston Municipal Employees Pension System trustees, scheduled to meet today, and City Council, which convenes again Wednesday.

In addition to the benefit changes, which don’t affect current workers, the deal also sets a four-year financing schedule that had been the subject of contention in recent weeks between White and the fund’s executive director, David Long.

If the deal is approved, the city would be allowed to contribute to the fund what the mayor proposed for the next fiscal year: about $75 million. That annual contribution would gradually increase over the next few years, but remain at a percentage of employee payroll that city officials believe is more manageable.

So the initial take appears to be that the Mayor won this particular staredown. I presume we’ll see more details tomorrow, at which point we can better judge how good or bad this deal is for the city as a whole. Given the nature of these things, I’ll bet that acceptance by HMEPS and City Council is a formality – you’d have to be a fool to announce a deal more than a week ahead of deadline if you aren’t real sure that it’ll be ratified by those who have to vote on it. Mayor White ain’t a fool.

Matt Stiles has more. Getting back to the budget for a sec, I’d like to know more about this:

Among the changes, which didn’t alter the mayor’s plan significantly, was the elimination of a controversial proposed waste-reduction fee creating a dedicated fund that would guarantee money for solid waste services such as recycling, composting and heavy trash collection.

So what’s going to happen to recycling, composting, and heavy trash? Keep doing what we’re doing, make the changes suggested but take the money from general revenue as before, or cut back on some or all of them? I suppose Council still has action items regarding this. I look forward to hearing more.

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