Another handshake on pension deal

Jacksonville is $1.7 billion behind in police, fire pension contributions

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – With last month's agreement between the city of Jacksonville and the Police and Fire Pension Fund unraveling, the two sides met again Tuesday and make a new agreement.

The city is $1.7 billion in funding the pension of retired city officers and firefighters.  An agreement negotiated in secret last year was invalidated by the courts for violating the state's Sunshine Law and rejected by City Council.

A second agreement negotiated over several weeks in May came under fire by City Council members who questioned where the additional $40 million in annual pension contributions would come from and the pension fund board withheld its endorsement.

No written agreement was ever introduced to Council.

At Tuesday's meeting, the date to change negotiations from the pension fund to the unions was moved back to 2024, but there was no change in the controversial 3 percent annual guaranteed cost-of-living agreement or dedicated funding source.  Yet the meeting ended with another handshake and upbeat statements.

"First, we have our funding for the $40 million for the first year. So that's good; that gives us some time to work out the other options," Brown said. "The other thing I just want to make sure people don't focus just on COLA (cost-of-living agreement). We accomplished a lot. You got a look at the whole picture; the way the structure -- the governance structure -- the funding that was committed by current employees. The totality of the plan. It's a good plan for taxpayers. And if fair plan for city employees."

Executive director of the Pension Fund, John Keane, also thinks Tuesday's session settled some outstanding issues.

"I think were on another victory lap," Keane said. "I think most of the problems and issues that are brought up since our last meeting have been resolved. A very comprehensive identification of pending issues and we're on the road again."

Initial reaction from City Council leadership was still full of concern about a continuing funding source.

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