Jax City Council rejects (again) pension reform plan

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The Jacksonville City Council once again rejected a police and fire-pension reform plan championed by Mayor Alvin Brown.

The proposal was defeated on a 9-9 vote, falling short of the majority needed to pass.

There was a long debate on several amendments that if approved likely would have gotten the legislation approved.

One would have allowed the council body to impose changes to the pension deal if projections of the required annual contribution by the city deviates by more than 10 percent over the 10-year term of the agreement.

The amendment was to be a compromise among council members who wanted only a three-year moratorium on imposing pension changes for current employees. It also was defeated on a 9-9 vote.

Proponents of the three-year period said their major concerns were that three years would be consistent with pension deals in other Florida cities. There were also concerns retirees would live longer than projected thereby increasing pension costs. The compromise was supposed to address that concern. Local Fraternal Order of Police President Gary Oliveras had sent a letter to council members citing a study that showed local police officers on average live 12 fewer years than the general public.

Council President Clay Yarborough voted against the bill but said he would have supported it if the amendment were approved.

“Several of us tried to compromise and if it had that safety in there about adjusting sometime in the next 10 years, if financial conditions change, I was prepared to vote in favor of it,” he said.

Council members also did not want to tie the hands of future councils with a 10-year deal, but an amendment to reduce the length of the agreement to three years also failed to gain a majority.

Council member John Crescimbeni said he would have voted for the deal if language allowing a Senior Staff Voluntary Retirement Plan to continue was removed. That plan has been sharply criticized and its legality has been questioned.

Councilwoman Denise Lee said she was not interested in voting in any pension reform plan that did not include a funding source.

“The pension crisis is all about the unfunded liability,” she said. “If you don’t have a funding source the issue is still out there. So until you deal with the funding source at least how it’s going to be funded for the next 10 years you haven’t done anything.”

Administration officials expressed frustration over the vote.

Chief of Staff Chris Hand said the nine council members who voted against the deal did a disservice to the community.

“What nine council members did (Wednesday) was an insult to taxpayers and to our very brave first responders,” he said. “This agreement would have saved taxpayers $1.3 million over the next 30 years.”

Hand said Brown will continue to fight for pension reform, saying it is too important for the city’s future.

Kevin Meerschaert



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