JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Mayor Lenny Curry spoke Thursday for the first time since the JEA board voted to explore options including privatization, saying he would demand three conditions be satisfied before he would support selling the city-owned utility.
1) Protecting employees and their jobs
2) Protecting their pensions and "promises made," as he put it
3) Protecting customers and their rates
If that happened and JEA fulfilled the board's requirement to send at least $3 billion to the city, Curry said selling the utility would make Jacksonville the first major city in America to be debt-free.
"Right now we pay $240 million per year in debt service on existing debt. We would no longer be paying that debt service. We would have that $240 million to invest in neighborhoods. That $240 million would also exceed the contribution JEA currently makes to the city of Jacksonville. In paying that debt down, we would pay down (the) $1.1 billion in the Better Jacksonville Plan debt. Guess what? Immediately, the pension reform tax that we passed would kick in now instead of in 2030, which would reduce our pension liabilities by another $800 million which would be used for the people of Jacksonville."
Curry emphasized that voters have the ultimate say in any change ownership of JEA.