Jacksonville Pension Reform Bill Faces Obstacles As It Heads To City Council

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Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown’s pension reform bill is headed to the City Council, where it will be scrutinized and approved by two separate committees.

But it won’t be smooth sailing for the bill, as several council members will likely push for unpopular amendments to the measure.

The bill aims to improve the funding of the city’s public safety pension system by forcing the city to make higher payments to the system – to the tune of an extra $40 million a year.

From the St. Augustine Record:

When Mayor Alvin Brown’s pension reform deal heads to a City Council committee today, the meeting will be led by a councilman pushing for several significant changes that could jeopardize the bill.

Rules committee Chairman Bill Gulliford said he’ll try to convince his colleagues to adopt one of the six amendments he’s proposed to the pension package, which was based on negotiations Brown conducted earlier this year with the Police and Fire Pension Fund.

Gulliford’s amendments would seek further reductions in pension benefits for current police and firefighters, which the pension fund rejected during negotiations.

If the council approves any amendments to the pension deal, the pension fund’s board also must approve the changes.

Brown has touted his deal as the city’s best shot yet at fixing its pension crisis and its looming $1.65 billion pension debt. He has said the deal would save the city $1.5 billion in the next 35 years.

[…]

In recent weeks, some council members questioned the deal’s merits.

The leading criticism: Brown hasn’t identified a realistic funding source for the $400 million more the city and its taxpayers will contribute to the fund over 10 years — on top of the yearly required amount — a major component of the deal’s saving.

The extra $40 million per year in contributions would expedite the paydown of the city’s debt obligation to the pension fund and save money over the long haul, just as homeowners benefit by making extra payments on their mortgages.

Brown’s legislation would use money from the pension fund’s reserve accounts to cover this year’s $40 million payment and then $21 million in the 2015-16 budget. But there isn’t a definitive plan yet to pay the rest.

Other critics say current police and firefighters really didn’t sacrifice anything to help resolve the pension plan’s woes.

For the bill to pass, ten council members need to support it. Currently, only seven council members are on board.

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