DALLAS — It was payday for police officers and firefighters, and many say it was a difficult reality check.

“I think it was surreal for most people,” said veteran Officer Nick Novello. “When I got paid today, I was $300-plus short.”

Police officers and firefighters are now required to contribute more to their own pension system that was on the brink of insolvency after years of mismanagement. They agreed to the increases to their pension contributions earlier this year, ranging from 5 percent to 9 percent of their pay. Dallas taxpayers are on the hook too.

“Although they knew it was coming, maybe they didn’t realize the exact cost of what it was,” said Michael Mata, president of the Dallas Police Association.

The Association understands why the contributions are necessary, but they argue the city needs to pay officers more to lessen the blow.

“You’ve got to be able to pay them a decent or better than average salary, or we’re just going to continue to lose more officers to the suburbs,” said Mata.

To make matters worse, the change was accompanied by a payroll glitch. Some officers’ taxable earnings were miscalculated, resulting in even more of their pay being withheld. The city said that mistake will be fixed and money will be refunded by next week, but the pension contribution calculations were accurate and permanent.

“That’s 5 or 9 percent of your base pay,” said Mata. “It is a kick in the gut to a lot of officers. You look at their paycheck, and it’s anywhere from $200, $300, sometimes even $400. Sometimes, that’s a tough, tough pill to swallow.”

Officer Novello doesn’t know whether there was a mistake in his pay, but he believes it all sends the wrong message to public servants.

“You’ve got young, talented people. A lot of good men and women work here, but it’s almost as if you’re deliberately showing them that you have no value,” Novello said.

WFAA’s Tanya Eiserer contributed to this report.

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