With no pension reform plan on the table, Jacksonville’s newly appointed Retirement Reform Task Force wasn’t sure if they would even continue meeting.
But I’ve learned the chairman not only wants their work to move forward, but he wants your voice to be heard throughout.
“It’ll be difficult, but I’m always optimistic,” says Chairman Bill Scheu.
Scheu tells me their meeting Wednesday afternoon primarily to decide where to go from here. The Task Force members were appointed by the Mayor to comb through the proposed pension reform plan between the city, Jacksonville Association of Fire Fighters, Fraternal Order of Police and Police and Fire Pension Fund. Shortly after the Task Force was formed, however, the City Council voted the proposed plan down in order to move forward with Jacksonville’s budget process without the question hanging over them of if reform would happen in time.
“We’re not exactly sure how we’re gunna be going forward,” Scheu says.
One of the biggest concerns shared by councilmembers as they voted down the plan was that the Task Force hadn’t really received time to conduct its review, and that the community had been denied its opportunity to fully sound off because the plan was pulled out of the normal voting cycle.
Scheu thinks community input in this process is vital, considering the pension payout amounts to about $150 million or your tax dollars next budget year. As such, he wants the committee work to move forward in an open and transparent way- something that’s not always achieved with mediation underway at the bargaining table.
So the question then becomes what capacity they serve. Scheu envisions the Task Force looking in to alternative plans and offering recommendations to the parties involved in mediation along the way.
“See if we can’t help have some conversations with all the parties to see if there isn’t a good idea that everyone might agree to,” he says.
They will achieve those ideas through hearing the perspective of the committee members- most of whom serve some capacity in business or the community outside of this direct issue. He says they are also planning to hear from at least one person who spearheaded similar negotiations in another city. And again, he hopes to get your perspective and thoughts as well.
If the Task Force sides with Scheu and decides to continue, he has some changes planned as well. He has already asked a former member of the media to join them, to give a perspective on the relationship between mediation and public access. He would also like to see more perspectives from the labor side of negotiations join the group.
The Task Force will meet at 2 PM Wednesday in Lynwood Roberts Room on the 1st floor of City Hall.