Amended police/fire pension plan on track to pass

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – City Council appears on the verge of passing an agreement that could solve the city's biggest financial mess: the $1.7 billion deficit in the Police and Fire Pension Fund.

The majority of members have given its approval to a watered-down version of what Mayor Alvin Brown and the head of the pension fund agreed on earlier this year.  If it passes the full Jacksonville City Council on Tuesday night, it will go back to the pension fund board for its approval.

This is still one sticking point for some council members: No where does this plan say where the additional $40 million annual contribution for the next 10 years will come from.

The mayor's office has been pushing an idea to use JEA as a funding source, and in turn help with the pension for JEA employees.

"I support the JEA proposal that was presented by former city Councilman Matt Carlucci and Charlie Appleby," Brown said. "The JEA board voted unanimously as a working framework so I'm looking forward to working with (the) JEA as they come up with a final document to present, but I support their proposal."

Some council members are very leery of that.

"JEA is not a bank. JEA is utility, and we have to be very, very careful," said Councilman Richard Clark.

But the bigger issue may be with the Police and Fire Pension board, since amendments to the agreement made by the council ties cost-of-living increases for new retirees tied to the COL adjustments made to Social Security, plus changes to the deferred retirement plan.

"We need to see not just new employees. We need to see everybody at the table feeling sacrifice across the board," said Clark.

The council also inserted language giving it the right to reopen the agreement every three years if there is an impasse during contract negotiations.

The head of pension fun couldn't say if these changes would doom the agreement before the board.

"It's hard to say what could be a deal killer or what's going to be eventually adopted," said executive director John Keane. "There is going to be substantial discussion going forward, I can promise you that."

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