After months of debate, the Jacksonville City Council could approve this week a measure to reduce the city’s pension debt.
Observers say the measure, which would increase city pension contributions, change retiree COLAS and give the Council the right to change benefits, has the votes needed to pass through the Council.
From the Florida Times-Union:
The full council will meet Tuesday and could take a vote on the legislation.
Thirteen council members — more than a necessary majority for passage — voted last week in favor of the bill during two committee meetings after making several changes they said make the agreement a financially better deal for taxpayers.
After years of failed attempts to reform the police and fire pension and reduce the city’s $1.65 billion debt obligation to it, council members appear close to passing a bill that Brown’s administration says will save the city $1.2 billion over a 30-year period.
“I suspect there will be limited discussion on it, and I suspect the vote will be significantly in favor, maybe even an unanimous vote,” said Councilman John Crescimbeni.
If the Council passes the bill, it will still need to be approved by the Police and Fire Pension Fund Board. There’s no guarantee they will accept the deal. From the Florida Times-Union:
The pension fund board is composed of five members. The police and firefighters union each appoint one member, the City Council appoints two members and the fifth member is chosen by the four other members.
Whether the board members pass the bill remains a major question, because it includes some significant differences from Brown’s original legislation that they supported.
Council amendments include changes to guaranteed annual cost-of-living adjustments that current police and firefighters will receive to their pensions and interest rates earned in their Deferred Retirement Option Program accounts. The council would also retain the power to impose pension benefit changes in three years if future collective bargaining talks reach an impasse.
When Brown negotiated his deal with the pension fund earlier this year, pension board members nixed the concepts now included in the council’s changes.
Officials from the mayor office told the council last month that any changes made to the deal could effectively kill it.
The reform measure would increase city contributions to the pension system by $40 million per year for the next 10 years. It would also change the way COLAs are calculated and would give the Council the right to change worker benefits for the next three years.
Photo by pshab via Flickr CC License