City officials discuss pension ideas to deal with $1.7B deficit

Current police, firefighters' contributions a sticking point

By Jim Piggott - Reporter
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The first steps on how to take care of Jacksonville's pension mess started Tuesday.

The city has to find a way to deal with the $1.7 billion pension deficit. It's starting with negotiations between the Police and Fire Pension Board and the Mayor's Office.

During a daylong session Tuesday, city officials took some things off the table that they know would be easy to deal with. Those include dealing with current retirees, who won't have any changes, and looking at new employees, who will have to pay more when they're hired by the city.

But the sticking points are with current police and firefighters and how much more they would have to pay into the pension plan to help bail out the city.

"I feel good. I think this is a good opportunity for us to present the city's position on retirement before basically agreeing with the task force recommendation that was presented," Mayor Alvin Brown said.

The city laid out four ideas. The first plan would affect future employees. No. 2 has recommendations for current employees and calls for them to contribute more to their pension.

"We believe there should be more contribution, a shared sacrifice that the task force has recommended," Brown said.

The third idea calls for changes in the way the Police and Fire Pension Fund is operated. And the fourth deals with how the city would pay more to pay off the pension debt if all sides agrees on the other issues.

But John Keane, of the Pension Fund, said the real problem is with current employees and having them pay more now into the Pension Fund, even though they took a pay cut a few years back.

"Reiterate that promises made to current employees need to be kept," Keane said. "We are very skeptical of changes being made to current employees. It would be like if you went to the store, bought something and put it in layaway. You made eight of the 10 payments, and it's an item that's in demand. And the shop owner says, 'Well, I'll put it back in the shop and sell it for more.'"

For a list of upcoming meetings, go to the city's website.

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