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Jacksonville City Council panel rejects pension reform bill

The Jacksonville City Council Rules Committee on Tuesday rejected the latest version of a bill to reform the city’s police and firefighter pension plan.

Still at issue is whether the council waits three years or 10 before it makes any changes to pension plans for current employees.

After amending the deal to include the three-year time span, the committee voted the whole bill down on a 4-3 vote.

Councilman Robin Lumb voted in favor of the amendment to reduce the time to three years for moving legislation forward.

Nevertheless, Lumb voted against the full bill, saying he still supports the 10-year moratorium.

Lumb also said he could not support the legislation until a known funding source is identified to pay off the city’s nearly $1.7 billion in unfunded liability for the Police and Fire Pension Fund.

“It makes sense to pay down that unfunded liability more quickly but it doesn’t make sense to hobble our budget process for the next several years looking for a way to identify this funding when right now nobody has a plan,” Lumb said.

Supporters of the 10-year plan say was a compromise with the Police and Fire Pension Board, which gave little indication it would agree to the three-year timetable.

But Councilwoman Lori Boyer said the three-year plan puts the Jacksonville’s pension plan in line timewise with other such pension deals across the state. She also said 10 years is too long in case future events prove the deal far more expensive than previously though. She said the council needs to be assured the city will be able to pay off its pension obligations.

“I have a big responsibility to those people who have already retired and to those people who have worked most of their career in a position for our city counting on something,” she said. “I’ve got to have a sustainable system to pay the benefits we promised them.”

Two more committees will discuss and likely vote on the amended bill on Wednesday with the full council taking another stab at a final vote next Wednesday, the day after Jacksonville’s first election.

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