Mayor, police union still at odds over pension plan

Sales tax to pay off deficit requires unions to agree to close current plans

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The plan to solve Jacksonville's $2.7 billion pension crisis took another turn Wednesday as the Fraternal Order of Police said Mayor Lenny Curry is not honoring his word, and produced a video to prove it.

During a collective bargaining session on wages and pensions Wednesday, the union for Jacksonville's police officers played a video of the mayor recorded during the campaign where he said he does not support using a 401(k) plan for police and firefighters.

But that’s what the mayor is proposing for all newly hired officers and firefighters. The current pension plan, with some modifications, would continue to cover existing employees.

"We have been dealing for decades with mayors who have cast doubt on what they say and do," FOP President Steve Zona said.

The mayor responded by saying the quote they are showing from last summer is out of context. He said he was talking about current employees, not new hires.

"I told them I would go stand in front of a camera and I went in front of your camera, Jim, and I looked you in the eye and microphone and said, 'I will stand by the current benefits for the men and women, period.' And my restoration of those benefits demonstrates my comment I made then," Curry said.

Curry has promised a hefty pay raise for the city's public safety employees -- 20 percent over three years -- and the return of benefits cut during the financial downturn in the 2000s. But the city is also saying it would match up to 25 percent of the 401(k) contribution of new employees.The city has given the unions 30 days to accept the offer, or it goes away.

Both police and firefighter unions say 401(k)s won’t work for them, but they are listening to the city's proposals.

"They want to put a 30-day deadline on it. We are not tied to a 30-day (deadline). I mean, they can take their offer back if they want to. We are trying to reach a resolution. We are trying to be reasonable here and come to a conclusion that is good for our members and good for the city of Jacksonville."

One question the unions want answered is what the new package that includes an up-to-25 percent 401(k) match would cost taxpayers. Most businesses match from 3 to 10 percent.

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