Police and Fire Pension deal goes to City Council

By Jim Piggott, General assignment reporter, jpiggott@wjxt.com
Published On: Jun 10 2014 05:25:40 PM EDT
Updated On: Jun 10 2014 06:00:59 PM EDT
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

A bill that spells out details of a years-long fight on how to catch up on $1.7 billion hole in the Jacksonville Police and Fire Pension Fund will be introduced to City Council on Tuesday night.

The latest agreement is spelled out in a 57-page bill, 2014-386, which incorporates all of the changes and agreements Mayor Alvin Brown and Pension Fund executive director Keane came to during more than two months of talks that were moderated by former state Sen. Rod Smith.

The pension fund also agreed to contribute about $61 million to the city when the deal is agreed upon and another $8 million for the next seven years, all of which will benefit paying down the plan’s $1.7 billion unfunded liability.

The city agreed to contribute an additional $40 million above normal payments toward the liability until its 80 percent funded of when the financial aspects of the deal end in 2024, whichever is sooner.

The agreement also increases the contribution of current and future employees contributing more, a shortening of the agreement from 30 to 20 years and an increase in transparency and accountability in the fund.

ORDINANCE: 2014-386 - Amending Police and Firefighters Pension Fund
ADMINISTRATION ANALYSIS:  Deal will save taxpayers $1.6 million over 35 years

A dedicated funding source is still not identified for the city’s $40 million.  A retirement task force meeting early this year recommended a property tax increase that could be replaced by voter-approved sales tax.  The mayor's office has repeatedly resisted any tax increase and would awaiting a recommendation of a new Additional Unfunded Liability Payment Committee that the legislation creates.

"I am pretty optimistic about it," Brown said. "It's going to save the taxpayers $1.8 billion in 35 years.  The whole goal is to make sure we are financially healthy as a city.  It's good legislation and a good bill to protect taxpayers and be respectful to police and fire."

Several council members have expressed concern over aspect of the deal, including a guaranteed 3 percent cost-of-living increase for each year of agreement.

John Winkler, who heads Concerned Taxpayers of Duval County, is more than concerned. He thinks the plan will bankrupt the city.

"It can't work. This is the road to Detroit for Jacksonville if we were to accept this plan" Winkler said. "At the very best it just kicks the problem down the road one more time. At the very worst it spells a bankruptcy for the city of Jacksonville in the course of a decade or so."

While the legislation will be introduced Tuesday, it will likely take a month or more for committees to review the bill and send it to the full council for a vote.

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