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Pastors voice opposition to pension tax plan

Mayor Lenny Curry continues push for pension tax at Norwest Jacksonville church

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry received opposition to his half-cent sales tax to pay off the city's multibillion-dollar pension deficit at a town hall meeting several pastors held Monday evening at a Northwest Jacksonville church. 

At the forum at Open Arms Christian Fellowship Church, Curry continued his push for his pension reform plan, painting a dire picture of what Jacksonville will look like if it doesn't pass.

Curry opened with an emphatic plea as he made his case to the dozens of voters before him . 

"We have pension debt that's destroying our city. And it affects every single citizen. So I'm asking them to vote yes on County Referendum No. 1, which will take an existing half-penny sales tax and extend it after when it's set to expire to fund our pension liability," Curry said. 

But it was clear from the forum that many Jacksonville residents still aren't sold on the proposal.

 

"He says to us, 'Trust us.' But we agree trust, but verify, and we have not been able to verify anything he has said," said the Rev. Dr. James Sampson with First New Zion Missionary Baptist Church.

 

Sampson said the details of the plan just are not there.

 

"The reality is, is that he's trying to implement a tax increase that's really far beyond what the city ever imagined. So we just want to know more about it," Sampson said.

 

The event also took a political turn when many voiced their disapproval over Curry's recent appearance with Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. 

 

Curry and many in the audience, however, returned the focus to his pension plan. Curry unlined something that he's repeated many times in the past -- the plan will only extend a current half-cent tax.

 

"That vote, yes vote, will require we reform the pension plans and close them so this doesn't happen again," Curry said. 

 

News4Jax asked Curry how confident he is that the plan will pass. He responded by saying he is "playing to win."

Voters will have the chance on Aug. 30 to decide whether to approve the sales tax, which would go into effect in 2030, once the Better Jacksonville half-cent tax expires.