Jacksonville City Council Passes Pension Reform Bill

Jun 10, 2015

The Council’s vote wasn’t without dissent. Four Council members stand firmly against the bill.
Credit Ray Hollister / WJCT News

The Jacksonville City Council passed a bill reforming the Police and Fire Pension Fund Tuesday night.

The decision comes after many years of negotiations.

 

City Council President Clay Yarborough announced the vote of 14 to 4 in favor of the plan. The Police and Fire pension Fund has racked up more than a billion dollars in unfunded debt, and the new deal lays out a framework for how to pay it down.

But the Council’s vote wasn’t without dissent. Four Council members stand firmly against the bill. Councilwoman Lori Boyer voted no.

Boyer said, “I do think that we at best are treading on dangerous ground.”

She says a judge may rule that the wrong parties negotiated this bill, after a watchdog group challenged it in court.

“I think that there’s a very strong likelihood that the benefit portion of the bill will be invalidated,” she said.

But the majority of councilmembers are in favor of Councilman Bill Gulliford’s pension plan. Gulliford says over the last four years the city has paid $213 million more than what they would have, if there had been a payment plan in place.

Gulliford said, “This is like a group of doctors huddling around a patient to decide the extent of the surgery while the patient is lying there bleeding to death.”

Later this month the Police and Fire Pension Board will vote on the plan, and, if it passes, City Council will be tasked with finding a funding source to pay down the debt. One of those inheriting the challenge is council member-elect and former Jacksonville Mayor Tommy Hazouri.

“The bigger step ahead is for the new council and the mayor-elect to address the funding of the pension, and hopefully we can get caught up with it,” Hazouri said.

Gulliford says a sales tax may be the best option.

You can follow Lindsey Kilbride @lindskilbride.