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Could Jacksonville's pension deal fall through?

Police and Fire Pension Fund meets to discuss approving city's reform proposal

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jacksonville's biggest financial mess could be hitting a brick wall.

The Police and Fire Pension Fund met Monday to review the city's proposal to deal with the $1.7 billion pension deficit and the members are stuck on a major issue: how the city will pay for it.

The Jacksonville City Council approved a plan without designating a funding source and gave the pension board a little more than a month to approve or reject it. The board will meet again Jan. 5 to take an up-or-down vote.

But the pension board debated several issues Monday that could start the whole process over again.

The major concern Monday was how the city would be able to hire new firefighters and police officers if the city pension plan requires new employees to pay more into it.

DOCUMENT: Police and Fire Pension Fund resolution

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.

It's a measure that board had previously agreed to when Mayor Alvin Brown and the board ironed out a pension deal last summer.

But some are questioning that move.

"The discussion was candid and to the point -- blunt, which is good," said pension board member Walt Bussells. "Some of the opinions expressed about backtracking  on the settlement from this summer  were disappointing. We expressed those feeling directly, and I believe I used the word shocking."

Former Sheriff Nat Glover was one  who is considering changing that part of the deal. He just wants more information on the impact it would have on hiring new police and firefighters and what that would do to the current pension plan if those numbers  drastically drop.

"I have to feel comfortable with my vote," Glover said. "The consequences of that we have to look at.  But right now I have to see a few more numbers."

Brown said he does not believe this will change the deal that the city council has given the board until Jan. 15 to return to them.

"I think they are having a rigorous debate," Brown said. "I think we are moving forward. I think the chairman and the board are reminding people what is at stake. And I think that is the key." 


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