A Jacksonville city councilman has moved forward with the idea of levying a sales tax to help fund the city’s Police and Fire Pension Fund.
The tax would have to be passed by voters, and could appear on the May ballot.
Councilman Bill Gulliford has filed a bill which would allow a sales tax option to get on to the May ballot. The tax can’t be specifically earmarked for the pension debt, but rather it is for fire services. The intent behind the action is to use the tax as revenue for fire services and then take the money in the budget that would have been used for that and dedicate it toward the pension debt pay down.
Unfortunately, the process has another hitch still.
By state law, any new sales tax is offset by a change in the property tax. So, in order to actually generate revenue from the new sales tax, the City Council would have to vote to raise the property tax rate, but again that would drop back down when the sales tax takes effect.
Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown has repeatedly said he opposes any tax increases, so it’s unclear if he will move to veto the measure.
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Bill Bishop, a candidate for mayor of Jacksonville, this week addressed one of the city’s hottest topics: pension debt and reform.
Bishop said he would levy a sales tax increase and use the revenue to pay down the city’s pension debt.
From the Florida Times-Union:
City Councilman Bill Bishop, who is running for mayor, said Monday during a forum hosted by the Meninak Club of Jacksonville that putting a half-cent sales tax on the ballot would be the best way to shore up the finances of Jacksonville’s pension system.
Bishop said the economy is recovering so tax revenue is increasing, but not fast enough for growth to solve the city’s financial problems. He said a sales tax spreads the cost widely among residents as well as those who come into Duval County for shopping.
A half-cent sales tax would generate about $63 million and it would come with an expiration date if voters approved it. But state law currently doesn’t allow a sales tax geared specifically toward paying down pension debt. State lawmakers have been cool to the idea so there’s nothing in the works to schedule an election.
Jacksonville has been grapping for months with a way to pay for a proposed increase in pension contributions to the tune of $400 million over the next 10 years.
The city is trying to get out in front of its pension debt, to keep costs from spiraling further.
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