ON AIR NOW

LISTEN NOW

Weather

Sponsored By: Two Men and a Truck
cloudy-day
74°
Sct Thunderstorms
H 91° L 79°
  • cloudy-day
    74°
    Current Conditions
    Sct Thunderstorms. H 91° L 79°
  • partly-cloudy-tstorms-day
    90°
    Afternoon
    Sct Thunderstorms. H 91° L 79°
  • cloudy-day
    88°
    Evening
    Partly Cloudy. H 91° L 79°
LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

The latest top stories

00:00 | 00:00

LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

The latest traffic report

00:00 | 00:00

LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

The latest forecast

00:00 | 00:00

News
Current employee changes at 'heart' of dispute as pension talks reconvene
Close

Current employee changes at 'heart' of dispute as pension talks reconvene

Current employee changes at 'heart' of dispute as pension talks reconvene
Photo Credit: Stephanie Brown
The City of Jacksonville and the Police and Fire Pension Fund are meeting to hammer out "comprehensive retirement reform".

Current employee changes at 'heart' of dispute as pension talks reconvene

The newest batch of pension reform proposals is coming out of the City of Jacksonville and Police and Fire Pension Fund in what is set to be two weeks of quick moving negotiations.

Much of Jacksonville’s newest proposal mimics a recommendation from the specially appointed Retirement Reform Task Force, which issued a report in March. That includes a change in benefit payouts for new and current employees, changes in how the Fund is governed and additional money designated to pay down the more than $1.6 billion pension debt. The Police and Fire Pension Fund is countering with a proposal piece-by-piece, focusing to this point on governance issues.

Per an agreement reached between the bargaining parties, this is the first time these proposals have been discussed.  All discussion and presentations are now taking place in public meetings.

Today’s two-part session began with optimism that some issues, including new employee benefits and Fund governance could be quickly settled. The only point which had a definitive conclusion, however, was that none of the changes being discussed would affect current retirees.  In fact toward the end of today’s negotiations, moderator and former State Attorney Rod Smith told all sides they needed to think long and hard about what they are willing to compromise on so that these meetings don’t just turn in to reading proposal after proposal.

Including the two meetings today, there are a total of nine meetings scheduled through next Thursday, and Smith made it clear that those are the only sessions he hopes to schedule.  To achieve that, he gave “homework” today by telling those involved that he has three goals for Thursday’s meetings which they need to come prepared to discuss. He aims to first settle new employee benefits, second settle a package of governance issues, and third begin to discuss current employees.

One piece of the deal which has not yet been disclosed is how the City aims to pay down the pension debt. While the City’s proposal conditionally agrees that additional payments need to be made, there is no mention of a source for the money. The Task Force tapped a new sales tax for the payment, but when I asked the Mayor if that is a revenue stream under consideration he said only that the payments are important and they will determine a source after some of the other bargaining issues are decided.

The Mayor’s budget proposal comes out in just over two months, and City Council must approve a budget before October 1. If reform is not achieved by then, the City estimates the payout to the police and fire pension alone will total around $154 million. 

City of Jacksonville Proposal:

New employees

The City and Fund had previously agreed on changes for incoming employees which included increasing employee contribution to 10% from 7%, capping benefits and COLA, eliminating DROP and increasing the retirement age to 30 from 20. These changes were endorsed by the Task Force.

The City, in turn, has put this forward, but for a limited time frame lasting October 1, 2014 through September 30, 2017. Future changes would be collectively bargained with the Jacksonville Association of Fire Fighters and the Fraternal Order of Police, under this proposal.

Fund Executive Director John Keane has concerns about the short duration of this portion of the agreement. The unions also maintain they are not the body that should be collectively bargaining, but rather the Fund is. There is still litigation pending on the question of who should sit at the table.

Current employees

The City also chose to side with the Task Force recommendation on changes to current employees. These changes would not affect benefits accrued up to the implementation date, October 1, 2014.

The biggest changes include four parts. First, COLA is capped at 1.5% instead of 3% and starts the 3rd January after retirement instead of as early as three months after retirement. Second, DROP would reflect an actual rate of return between zero and ten percent, rather than being guarantees at 8.4%. Third, final average compensation would base on the last 60 months of employment rather than the last 24.

The fourth change, however, to employee contribution, is one of the main sticking points for Keane.  The proposal would immediately increase contribution to 8% from 7%, and increase again to 10% once pay cuts to the departments from the past few years have been restored. Keane says current employees should not see any increased contribution until after the cuts are restored.

This portion of the proposal includes the same defined timeline and future collective bargaining provisions as future employees.

Governance

Some of the governance proposals put forward by the Task Force are already being worked on by the Fund. Keane says they are actively interviewing for members of a Financial and Investment Advisory Committee, as an example.  The other recommendations included in the Task Force recommendation and, subsequently put forward by the city, include mandating financial disclosures from various PFPF employees, criteria for the next executive director and board members, and annual actuarial assessments and financial statements.

Unfunded liability

The unfunded liability, or pension debt, currently stands at more than $1.6 billion. The Task Force made it a priority to look at accelerating the rate at which Jacksonville is paying that down.  In addition to the legally required contribution, the Task Force favored paying an additional $40-60 million toward the debt until it’s 80% funded. They favored a half-cent sales tax on you in order to make that payment.

The City agrees, conditionally, in the need to pay down the debt. Today’s proposal says if all other proposals are agreed upon and the Fun agrees to dedicate half of the $9 million in “chapter funds” it receives annually from the state, then it would support the additional payments.  Keane does not, however, support redirecting the chapter funds which he says are already used for benefits.

The City further would not comment on how to get the money for the additional payments. Brown had initially favored a $40 million annual contribution from JEA, although the Authority is still reviewing what that would mean for ratepayers. Brown has not said directly whether he will support the Task Force’s sales tax plan, only saying that he is reviewing all options.  He tells me he would be comfortable making a commitment to make the payment ahead of deciding where the money itself would come from.

Police and Fire Pension Fund Proposal:

Keane outlined several proposals today rather than an entire “plan”. He opted to withhold several of the proposals until these get settled, saying he prefers to dedicate time to reviewing a few proposals at a time. Not offering a counter-proposal to this point is not a sign of his support for the City’s proposal.

New employees

Keane has signaled his support for the proposed changes for new employees which were previously agreed on with one exception. “Eleventh Hour” bargaining on the last deal resulted in an early retirement penalty formula which Keane does not agree with.

Under the formula, new employees would be able to retire at 25 years of service instead of 30 with a penalty. That penalty begins at only 75% payout and docks 2.5% off for each year early as well as a 3% penalty for each year early, under the current proposal from the City. As an example, an employee retiring with 28 years would be 75%-2.5%(2)-3%(2)=64%.  Keane believes the initial docking should be 2% and there should be no penalty, so a 28 year retiree would be 75%-2%(2)=71%.  He is willing to compromise at 2.5% docked, but not content with an additional penalty.

The City maintains the penalty is necessary in order to dis-incentivize early retirement and, therefore, create more stability on the force.

Governance

The remaining four proposals offered by Keane today deal with PFPF governance.

On the Advisory Committee, he has no support for any wording granting the committee oversight in to actuarial projections.  He says because those are handled at the state level, the committee would have no ability to directly impact them and therefore become in conflict with the PFPF Board. He says they are already interviewing for experts with finance and investment expertise, but does not believe that needs to extend specifically to actuarials. The City is concerned the definition offered by Keane is not broad enough to provide the level of oversight intended by the Task Force.

The second and third proposals fell more in line with how things are now or are recommended to be, although small differences remain.  The second dealt with ethics and disclosure requirements which Keane says are already made- so the City wants to see it codified. The third covers the ability of the Fund to consult with the Office of the General Counsel. While that has happened more recently, General Counsel Cindy Laquidara is now working on a letter to more specifically define how the agencies can and should work together.

The fourth proposal is considered an area of no compromise for Keane, changing how the fifth member of the Police and Fire Pension Fund Board is appointed. The Mayor’s proposal (described above) would allow the Mayor to appoint the fifth member, who would then need City Council confirmation. Keane instead propose that the Board stay as is, with the fifth member chosen by the first four members.  The concern here is the perception- and possibility- that having a third voice on the board from the “City” could sway the members away from the interest of the Fund members. Keane also believes there would need to be a change in the law in order to change the board structure, although the City believes a recent legal opinion from the General Counsel could open the door.

Read More
VIEW COMMENTS

There are no comments yet. Be the first to post your thoughts. or Register.

The Latest News Headlines

  • After two Jacksonville officers were shot on the Westside, support has been flooding social media. FULL STORY: Two JSO officers shot Government officials: Law enforcement:
  • The Stone Mountain Memorial Association this week denied a Ku Klux Klan request to burn a cross at the park in Dekalb County, Georgia, citing the trouble at a “pro-white” rally last year. >> Read more trending news Joey Hobbs, a Dublin man with the Sacred Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, wanted to hold a “lighting” ceremony on Oct. 21 with 20 participants, according to the application. This would have been to commemorate the KKK’s 1915 revival, which began with a flaming cross atop Stone Mountain on the evening of Thanksgiving. “We will light our cross and 20 minutes later we will be gone,” wrote Hobbs, who couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday, in an application dated May 26. It wasn’t immediately clear if Hobbs holds a formal position with the group. >> Related: George H.W., George W. Bush condemn ‘racial bigotry’ in Charlottesville statement “We don’t want any of these groups at the park, quite frankly,” John Bankhead, spokesman for the association said Wednesday, referring to white nationalists groups and the KKK. “This is a family-oriented park.”  But since it’s a public park, the association created a permit process to consider each application individually. In a statement, the memorial group, which oversees the park, said it “condemns the beliefs and actions of the Ku Klux Klan and believes the denial of this Public Assembly request is in the best interest of all parties.” >> Related: Trump again blames ‘both sides’ for violence in CharlottesvilleWriting to deny Hobbs, CEO Bill Stephens cited the trouble at the “Rock Stone Mountain” rally of April 23, 2016. The park had to close that day as white power revelers, including KKK members, clashed with counter-protesters. Stephens said an event like Hobbs’ would require public safety resources beyond what park police could provide, and thus, would put guests, employees and public safety workers in danger.  Besides creating a potentially-dangerous scene, the cross-burning would’ve also been an act of intimidation, Bankhead said. >> Related: University of Florida denies request for white nationalist Richard Spencer to speak “I think anybody who knows about cross burning knows why it’s used,” Bankhead said, recalling the KKK’s track record of setting crosses on fire to intimidate African Americans. “We’re just not going to allow that.” Georgia's terroristic threats and acts statute also specifically bars the practice when it’s done with the intent to “terrorize.” The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2003 that states can ban cross-burning, though it warned that the intent to intimidate must be proven in each case. Whatever Hobbs’ intent, the Stone Mountain Memorial Association CEO said the event would violate its ordinances against disruptions to the park and actions that present a “clear and present danger.”
  • The Harris County, Texas, Sheriff’s Department charged a woman accused of leaving her newborn baby girl in the bushes of her apartment complex with child abandonment on Monday, KHOU reports. >> Watch the news report here If convicted, Sidney Woytasczyk, 21, faces up to 20 years in prison. Woytasczyk reportedly told police she didn’t know she was pregnant and was afraid before she gave birth, but police are not buying her story: “We believe that she was trying to hide the fact that she was pregnant and gave birth from her boyfriend,” Sgt. Matt Ferguson of the Child Abuse Division of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office said in an interview with KTRK. Both her boyfriend and her mother testified they had no idea Woytasczyk was pregnant. >> On Rare.us: Newborn baby girl found in bushes outside of apartment complex Deandre Skillern, the woman’s boyfriend, claims he is the father of the baby and wants custody, submitting to a DNA test to prove his paternity. However, the baby’s maternal grandmother is also seeking custody. At this time, authorities reportedly do not believe Skillern was part of the child abandonment. Authorities believe that Woytasczyk hid her pregnancy to the point of delivering the child in her kitchen by herself and attempting to hide the birth out of fear of the baby coming between her and her boyfriend. That led to her dumping baby outside, investigators said. The baby’s umbilical cord was ripped from her body before she was placed in the bushes without any protection, KHOU reported. The baby reportedly was found naked outside by a neighbor after six hours, covered in ants. As a result of the ripped umbilical cord, she is suffering from a bacterial infection, KHOU reported. >> Read more trending news Authorities believe the child was near death when the neighbor rescued her. At this time, the baby is in CPS custody. Donations on behalf of the baby and other CPS children can be made by calling Mary Votaw at 832-454-4163 or Be a Resource (BEAR) at 713-940-3087.
  • Violence that erupted over the weekend at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, added momentum to a wave of efforts across the South to remove or relocate Confederate monuments. >> Watch the news report here >> There are hundreds of Confederate monuments, not just in the South A crowd of more than 100 protesters in Durham, North Carolina, used a rope to topple a statue of a Confederate soldier Monday evening outside the courthouse. Seconds after the monument fell, protesters began kicking the crumpled bronze monument as dozens cheered and chanted. >> Watch the clips here North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, spoke out about the incident on Twitter. >> Read more trending news 'The racism and deadly violence in Charlottesville is unacceptable, but there is a better way to remove these monuments,' he wrote. >> See the tweet here – The Cox Media Group National Content Desk contributed to this report.
  • In wake of the violence at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, continued conversations are emerging about Confederate monuments. The Associated Press reported that the “Unite the Right” rally was held by a group of “loosely connected mix of white nationalists, neo-Nazis and other far-right extremists with disjointed missions.” The group gathered to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from a nearby park. >> Read more trending news Despite the generalized association of Confederate monuments and the Confederacy with the Southern region of the United States, such monuments can be found across the country. USA Today reported there are at least 700 and possibly more than 1,000. Here are some of the hundreds of Confederate monuments in different regions of America. Robert E. Lee statue in Charlottesville, Virginia: At the center of the initial protests at the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville was the statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. Vandalized with graffiti of the words “Black Lives Matter” in 2015, it has been in the city since  1924. The bronze statue is located in Emancipation Park, formerly named Lee Park after Lee himself. The New York Times reported that City Council voted to remove the statue in February, but it was sued by those against the removal in March. The statue remains as the court case continues. Confederate Memorial Fountain in Helena, Montana: The granite fountain is one of many across the country created by the United Daughters of the Confederacy which says one of its objectives is to “collect and preserve the material necessary for a truthful history of the War Between the States and to protect, preserve, and mark the places made historic by Confederate valor.” During the Civil War, Montana wasn’t a state. Constructed in 1916, over 50 years after the war, it’s the only monument to the Confederacy in the Northwest. Memorial to Arizona Confederate Troops in Phoenix: In the Capitol’s Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza, Arizona has another monument created by the United Daughters of the Confederacy. Sitting among other memorials, the monument to Arizona Confederate soldiers was erected in 1961. Stone marker on Georges Island in Boston: Placed on the Massachusetts island by the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1963, the marker refers to the Civil War as “the War Between the States” and commemorates Confederate soldiers imprisoned at Fort Warren, also located on the island. Gen. James Longstreet statue in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania: An equestrian statue of Longstreet -- similar to that of Lee’s, is in Gettysburg National Military Park. Built in 1998, the memorial is located on the battlefield where the Battle of Gettysburg -- considered to be one of the most important in the Civil War -- occurred. Longstreet was a subordinate of Lee. Confederate Civil War soldier statue in Columbus: The Camp Chase Confederate Cemetery in Ohio contains two monuments. One, installed in 1902, is a bronze statue of a daCivil War soldier standing on top of a granite arch holding a rifle in front. Another is of a 3-foot-tall boulder, which is under the arch. It was installed in 1897. Confederate Monument at Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles: A monument of confederate soldiers is located in the burial site of many celebrities. The service of some 30 Confederate veterans from many Confederate states is commemorated in the 7-foot granite monument. An inscription on the monument says it was erected by the Confederate Monument Association. It is maintained by the Long Beach chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. 

The Latest News Videos