Pension task force gives final recommendation

By Jim Piggott, General assignment reporter, jpiggott@wjxt.com
Published On: Mar 06 2014 03:20:38 PM EST
Updated On: Mar 06 2014 07:49:04 PM EST

VIDEO: A city task force met today to discuss pension reform for retiring city employees. A couple of options regarding a sales tax or a property tax increase were suggested.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

It looks like new taxes will be the way to solve Jacksonville's pension mess.

The city's retirement task force made that clear last week while looking at ways to pay off the $1.7 billion deficit.

In its final meeting Thursday, the board put its finishing touches on the report and recommendations for a property tax or sales tax increase.

Ultimately, the City Council and voters will decide whether to raise taxes.

The final report includes how the board says the city should pay to bring the pension debt into line. The primary recommendation going to council include having the city use a discretionary sales tax, a half-cent tax that would raise $68 million.

DOCUMENTS: Task Force executive summary | Final draft report

To get there is complicated. Property taxes would go up, increasing by a mil. That would generate $68 million a year.

Then in November's election, voters would have a choice on whether they prefer the sales tax or property tax increase.

"If we end up where we are at the moment, it's the preferred option of the board with the sales surtax," task force chairman Bill Scheu said.

He said the tax also involves changing the layout of the pension system. For example, new city employees could retire at age 62, or 30 years of service. They would contribute 10 percent.

Current employees would also have to pay more into their plans, but not at first. They would pay 7-8 percent, then 10 percent after being given a salary increase to make up for recent pay cuts.

Mayor Alvin Brown said while that may be the main recommendation, he does not support a tax increase. He said that's not the only option. He still believes JEA money should be used. And even though the draft report is out there, the mayor has not read it.

"I got to look at their recommendation, but I think there is a way to get there by working with our stakeholders who have a lot invested in this issue," Brown said. "So I want see what the report says, and we will go through it."

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