JEA: Pension plan would require rate increase

Mayor says utility should pay additional $40 million a year for 14 years

By Jim Piggott - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - It's one of the biggest financial issues to hit Jacksonville -- how to pay city pensions without raising taxes.

The mayor's latest plan is for JEA to pick up part of the bill, which will give the city an extra $40 million a year to help pay down pension costs.

On Tuesday, JEA board members and its CEO talked to the City Council, saying it can't be done without an electric rate increase.

Every year, JEA gives part of its profit back to the city to fund governmental programs. The mayor believes the utility could give an additional $40 million for 14 years to help get out of the pension mess in leu of raising taxes.

JEA made it clear Tuesday it can't do that without raising rates.

"It's $560 million. I don't see where we have $560 million for 14 years without it impacting the rate payer and our other stakeholder: Wall Street," JEA board Chairman Mike Hightower said.

Many council members got the message.

"They don't have the $40 million to kick in," council President Bill Gulliford. "It would have a detrimental impact on rate payers."

Mayor Alvin Brown isn't buying it. He said he's upset JEA would talk to the council first before going to the retirement task force. Brown said his staff has been in talks for months with JEA staff about his plan, which he said is viable.

"I am very disappointed in a few of the leadership individuals at JEA that would not go though the process and present their concerns to the task force, which is set up to have an open, transparent dialogue with some of their concerns," Brown said.

JEA said it will look at any plan the mayor has to offer. Meanwhile, Brown said he doesn't need to try a different strategy.

"I think the bottom line is, if you really want to solve this problem we inherited when I came into office, let's all work together and be very objective and sit down with the folks who are a part of this whole process," Brown said.

JEA will talk to the retirement task force members. That board will make its recommendation soon to the council.

Copyright 2014 by All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.