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Local
Funding concerns hold up police/fire pension reform deal
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Funding concerns hold up police/fire pension reform deal

Funding concerns hold up police/fire pension reform deal
Photo Credit: Stephanie Brown

Funding concerns hold up police/fire pension reform deal

It’s facing resistance before it’s even formally proposed.

“The biggest question I have is the supplemental money the City is going to contribute- where is that going to come from,” says Councilman John Crescimbeni.

A tentative pension reform agreement has been reached between the City of Jacksonville and the Police and Fire Pension Fund. The City estimates this would save about $1.5 billion over 30 years, which is $200 million more than a prior agreement voted down by the Council but about $300 million than a package put forward by a special Retirement Reform Task Force. The tentative deal is the result of two and a half weeks of collective bargaining.

The City intended to introduce the proposal to the City Council this evening, but Council President Bill Gulliford tells us that will not happen. The bill was not filed by the standard deadline, and Gulliford says he will not consent to it getting added on to their agenda now because he still has not obtained a copy of the proposal. He also believes it’s an incomplete proposal because there is no designated funding line for an annual $40 million contribution the City will pledge to make toward the $1.6 billion pension debt.

Tuesday morning the City said they were still fine tuning the legislation. An email was sent to Council members just after 3 PM saying the introduction of the deal would, in fact, be postponed. Mayor’s Chief of Staff Chris Hand cited the need for the PFPF attorney to provide the City with more feedback.

The proposal would set up a special committee- consisting of the CFO, Council Auditor, Task Force Chair and others- which would issue a recommendation every year on the best way to fund the $40 million contribution. The Task Force previously recommended a new sales tax on you to help pay down the debt.

“Making another committee to make recommendations for how the $40 million is allocated year-to-year is, I think, sophomoric,” says Councilman Matt Schellenberg.

Also built in to the proposal are several incentives for the City to meet its annual commitment. That includes allowing the Fund not to pay its annual contribution if the City doesn’t pay its own.

Mayor’s Office Spokesman Dave DeCamp says that incentive is enough to commit the city to paying the contribution, and having this debated every year would force the City to be thoroughly vetted by the committee as well as the taxpayers.

“Ensure accountability by any mayor or any Council who has to make this decision,” DeCamp says.

The special committee recommendation would go to the Council President and Mayor’s Office, with the intent that the parties then work together to adopt that recommendation.

This $40 million annual contribution would be allocated for reducing the unfunded liability, or pension debt. It is an additional commitment to the annual payout required to cover benefits for pensioners.

The Police and Fire Pension Fund Board has seen the proposal now as well, but have not yet acted on it.

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