JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

The city of Jacksonville has reached a tentative agreement on a new three-year contract with the Jacksonville Association of Firefighters that will save taxpayers nearly $2 million annually if ratified by the union membership and City Council.

The deal would apply to the approximately 1,150 members of the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department represented by the union. It would extend by three years a 2 percent pay reduction and a 5 percent heath care contribution set for expiration on Sept. 30.

The contract preserves firefighter jobs by promising no layoffs and no demotions, with exception to disciplinary situations, for the next three years. It also promotes operational flexibility by empowering chiefs to temporarily assign firefighters and ranking officers to responsibilities outside their job descriptions but within their qualifications for no pay reduction.

Furthermore, it gives the fire chief the ability to limit leave time subject to certain requirements.

"I applaud the teamwork that went into crafting an agreement protecting both the jobs of dedicated firefighters and the assets of hardworking taxpayers," Mayor Alvin Brown said in a news release. "This is another great example of what's possible when everyone comes to the table to seek new and innovative solutions that focus on restoring our economic footing while providing the highest possible service levels."

Under the terms of the tentative agreement, the firefighters would maintain their current pay and health care contribution from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30, 2015, rather than see the pay reduction restored.

As a result of this change, Jacksonville taxpayers are estimated to save about $6 million over the life of the contract.

The tentative agreement does not specifically address retirement benefits but allows talks to reopen for that purpose.

The tentative agreement now goes to union membership for ratification. If ratified, it will then go to City Council for approval. If the City Council approves the new contract, it will take effect at the start of the new fiscal year on Oct. 1.