Police, fire pension fund board reviews 'agreement'

Pension board not expected to vote on reform legislation Friday

By Jim Piggott - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The board of the Jacksonville Police and Fire Pension Fund on Friday began scrutinizing the latest deal worked out between its executive director and Mayor Alvin Brown. 

At its June monthly meeting, the board formally received the 103-page pension reform legislation that is pending before Jacksonville City Council.

While the board did not take a vote to formally recommend passage because City Council could make changes on the proposed plan, the board did pass a resolution recommending approval.

Brown said the agreement will save taxpayers up to $1.83 billion over the next 35 years and fill the $1.6 billion deficit in funding the retirement fund for Jacksonville police officers and firefighters.

Initial reaction from council members has been lukewarm as the 20-year plan would guarantee a 3 percent annual cost-of-living increase and will require the city to commit $40 million a year more to pay down the debt, but doesn't specify where they money will come from.

Some pension fund members also have questions about the agreement. While none of the changes would affect current retirees, it requires current employees to pay more toward their pensions and retire later.

"This is very complex stuff (involving) billions of dollars and thousands of people's lives," said pension fund chairman Walt Bussells. "It's extremely important and complex.

Executive Director John Keane said the board will be mindful of the schedule for City Council approval, but may offer amendments during the process.

"It is inappropriate for the board to vote until the completion of the legislative review," Executive Director John Keane said. "The board is supportive of the council process and will hold a special meeting if necessary prior to the final council vote."

City Council has a ceremonial meeting Friday night to install leadership for the next year, then takes two weeks off, so discussion of the pension bill will not resume until mid July.

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