Task Force Leader: Jacksonville Needs to Approve Pension Reform

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Over the summer, Jacksonville’s mayor put together a Retirement Reform Task Force. The Task Force’s job description, according to the city website, is to “review the proposed public safety pension reform agreement, seek input from stakeholders and other interested citizens, and make recommendations on how the City should proceed.”

On Monday, the leader of that task force, William E. Scheu, wrote a column for the Florida Times-Union urging the Jacksonville city council to approve the pension reform measure currently in front of them.

The reform measure 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.

But city council members are worried because the mayor has not specified where he will get that extra money.

Scheu acknowledges that concern, but says this is the best chance to enact a pension reform measure built by compromise.

From the column:

Last year a broad-based, stakeholder-representative task force met 17 times and urged a comprehensive reform that recognized the interests of the various parties, acknowledged the legal conundrum in which the city was forced to operate and examined various alternatives for reform.

The solutions the task force proposed with the help of The Pew Charitable Trusts included significant governance reforms, benefit reductions for both future and existing employees, a reformed plan design and a funding source for accelerated pension contributions.

Task force members considered the fact that litigation was a present fact but an expensive and uncertain route for the future.

Its solution was a compromise that is not perfect, but is attainable and sustainable.

It was supported by the Times-Union and most business, civic and political leaders.

[…]

While the mayor has not provided good leadership in refusing to identify a dedicated funding source for the additional pension contributions recommended by the task force, the City Council should not abandon its own responsibilities and “kick the can” further down the road.

The City Council has an opportunity to move Jacksonville forward by adopting the proposal now before it. It is imperfect, but it is a responsible step toward ensuring that Jacksonville’s quality of life will improve and that the annual fights over funding the city’s core services will end.

The Fitch and Moody’s rating agencies have recognized that Jacksonville’s financial condition is sick.

It is time to enact pension reform.

It is time for Jacksonville to take its medicine for the harm inflicted on it by our leaders in earlier years.

Read the entire column here.

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