Pension fund board pushes back on city's proposal

Board to send requested changes to council by Wednesday

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – After a line-by-line review of the city-approved pension reform plan, the board of Jacksonville's Police and Fire Pension fund has several concerns and is likely to ask for some changes.

The board met two weeks ago to review the city council's proposal to deal with a $1.7 billion deficit in funding, but were back Monday to scrutinize the details.

John Keane, executive director of the fund, said the board has several concerns that it will express to the city:

  • Calls on city council to guarantee a funding source for its $40 million annual contribution required by the agreement.
  • Not willing to accept reduced cost-of-living increase from the agreed 3 percent annual to a variable rate between 0 and 6 percent for active and retired police and firefighters. The board is requesting it be increased to 0 to 6 percent.
  • City council approved a 0-10 percent rate for deferred retirement (DROP) each year. Pension board wants higher rate: 2-14.4 percent.
  • The original deal with the mayor allowed the terms of the plan to be renegotiated after 10 years. City council changed that to three years, which is not acceptable to the pension board.  

The board said a primary concern is making sure current employees are confident that the revised pension plan will give them a secure future.

Members feel the funding deficit was created by the city, so the changes should be made strictly on the backs of the employees.

"We've gotten to this point today simply by fact that city has not saved for a rainy day," said Richard Tuten, a member of the pension fund's board.

Keane said the board's attorney will meet with the city's general counsel this week to draw up suggested changes to the agreement. City council will then review the board's revisions over the coming plan weeks and decide if they will accept the new terms.

Keane was confident an agreement can and will be reached, as was Mayor Alvin Brown, who was at Monday's pension board meeting. 

""The issue is making sure that the changes made today goes back to council," Brown said. "Council will have their voice, and I'm optimistic everything is going to work out."

The council had given the board until Jan. 15 to come up with a final proposal. Once approved by both sides, it will be subject to a vote of all enrollees of the pension plan.

Reaching a new pension plan for Jacksonville's police and firefighters has been a long process. The board reached an agreement with Brown in June 2013, but it was negotiated in private meetings and found to be in violation of Florida's Sunshine Law. It was subsequently rejected by the city council.

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