Pension Fund must next approve deal

Members not happy with Jan. 15 deadline

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The next move on Jacksonville's pension reform is now up to the Police and Fire Pension Fund, which met Wednesday.

It heard from the Mayor's Office about the plan approved by the City Council Tuesday night on the way future pensions would be handled.

Under the plan approved by the council, future police and firefighters would undergo significant changes in the way their retirement is funded. They would pay more and the city would pay more into the retirement fund to bring it in line.

The pension board is not happy with a Jan. 15 deadline placed on it to accept or reject the plan. It took the council six months to go over the plan approved by the mayor and pension board last summer. Now the pesnion board has about 30 days to agree with the changes, or the deal with the council will expire.

The board will meet Dec. 22 to vote, but members have many questions about changes to the agreement worked out with the board and mayor.

The head of the pension board, Walt Bussells, said some of the plan could work, but other parts may not.

"The objective is to get it done so people have certainty going forward, both the taxpayers and the members," Bussells said.

Among some of the concerns under the plan being discussed are that it makes changes to the way new retirees would receive a cost-of-living increase. They pension board wants to make sure members will come out ahead.

The drop for deferred retirement plan where members get more money for working longer will change, but the board is not sure if that is fair.

The board wants to hear from the union about its thoughts and says it may need more time.

"Poll your members, get statistically valid data about where the membership is on each issue," Bussells said. "That input would be so valuable to us."

If it can't get the majority of the board to agree on each issue, it will draft new changes and send it back to council for approval.

It's all part of the next step to get the city out of a $1.7 billion pension deficit. The agreement Tuesday night does not say how the city will pay for it. That will be decided later, and changes will not go into effect until the money is found.

Some suggestions include funding from JEA, fees or tax increases. Those ideas will be taken up later next year.

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