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Pension reform plan needs big private investment
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Pension reform plan needs big private investment

Pension reform plan needs big private investment
Photo Credit: Stephanie Brown

Pension reform plan needs big private investment

It looks like a long-term solution to Jacksonville’s pension problem may need a hefty private sector investment.

“It’s professional support that the Task Force will need in order to craft the work,” says former Publisher at the Atlanta Journal & Constitution John Mellott.

Mellott is consulting with Jacksonville on the road to a pension reform solution after working on Atlanta’s proposal.  While Atlanta has a smaller unfunded liability than Jacksonville and different structure, Mellott thinks he can bring a lot to the table- chiefly a professional task force with pension reform experience.

Speaking in front of the Retirement Reform Task Force, Mellott outlines a multi-faceted group which would include lawyers, actuarial professionals, communications, and project managers. The price tag for such a crew and the plan they come up with is expected to be six figures, but Task Force Chairman Bill Scheu tells WOKV that will be entirely privately funded.

This was the first time the Task Force has met since the proposed pension deal reached between the Mayor, Jacksonville Association of Fire Fighters, Fraternal Order of Police local and Police and Fire Pension Fund was voted down by Jacksonville’s City Council.

“What we need is everyone to understand the problem, focus on that problem, and work on finding a solution,” says PFPF Executive Director John Keane.

His focus this time around is that of many others- the unfunded liability.

Right now, about $1.6 billion of Jacksonville’s pension liability is unfunded. Keane says a lot of that is because interest rates have been so low so long that there hasn’t been a good yield.

The city is already starting to vaguely float some ideas for paying this down. Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown tells me we will have to look at assets the city can leverage. There is one way he says we will not generate the money.

“I don’t agree with any tax increase to solve the unfunded liability,” Brown tells WOKV.

Solutions like this pay down are still a few months away, however. First the Task Force has to tackle its own structure. There was a unanimous feeling that the board is not diverse enough, and that more representatives from the city or labor side of discussions need to be involved.  General Counsel Cindy Laquidara reminded the Task Force that was a central problem that led them to litigation, because the unions feel the PFPF should be at the bargaining table instead.

Mellott says the long road to a solution needs to start with a better understanding of the here and now.

“Where are we, what are out options, and then how do we execute against those options,” he says.

Mellott is planning several meetings in the coming months, but Scheu doesn’t expect they will be truly presented some kind of actionable plan until the spring. That leaves the possibility that we could see reform savings coming in the 2014-2015 budget cycle.  The pension payout for the next budget year is more than $150 million, that will rise to $180 million in 2014-2015 without reform.

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The Latest News Headlines

  • UPDATE 11/24/17 11:16 pm: JSO says Logan Mott has been detained by US Customs and Border Protection, as he tried to enter Canada from the Buffalo, New York area. ORIGINAL STORY: It's a tragic update in the days-long search to find a missing 15-year-old and his grandmother.  The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office announcing Friday afternoon they do believe foul play was involved, as they've recovered what they believe to be the body of 53-year-old Kristina French in the backyard of a Neptune Beach home connected to the two.  'The burial site was excavated today and human remains were located. They appear consistent with the description of Kristina French, but there will be no positive identification until the autopsy is completed by the medical examiner,' says JSO's Director of Investigations, Ron Lendvay.  At this point, JSO says 15-year-old Logan Mott is still missing, as is the silver Dodge Dart. Police say they do believe Mott is alive and in that vehicle.  'We have video surveillance of an individual we believe to be Logan Mott, with what we believe to be the car that's missing in this case, in south central Pennsylvania yesterday at 1:15 pm,' says Lendvay.  JSO says they're in the process of obtaining an arrest warrant for Mott for auto theft. He's also considered a person of interest in connection to the death of the person found in the backyard of the home on Seagate Avenue.  Police say Mott may also be in possession of firearms, as guns had been reported missing from that home, so if you do see him, you’re urged to call 911.
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  • UPDATE Friday morning:  Logan Mott’s mother has posted a heartfelt message on Facebook, pleading for a safe return of her 15-year-old son and his grandmother, Kristina French.  UPDATE 11/23/17 5:40 PM: The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office says there’s no new information to release. ORIGINAL STORY: A missing child alert has been issued for 15-year-old Logan Mott out of Neptune Beach.  The Florida Department of Law Enforcement and Jacksonville Police believe Logan is in the company of his grandmother, 53-year-old Kristina French.  The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office says firearms are missing from a home they are associated with. Our partners at Action News Jax spoke with Logan’s mother who says the home that had the firearms looked like it had been ransacked.  The two are believed to traveling in a 2015 silver Dodge Dart with Florida tag D-L-L-T-4-2.  JSO says with the firearms missing, you should not approach them if you see them. You are asked to call 911. This is a developing story, check back for more updates. 
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