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Days 4, 5 and 6 of the Jan. 6 committee hearings will be repeated Saturday, July 2, at 10 a.m. on Jax PBS More! (7.4 and Comcast 212).
First Coast

Jacksonville Firefighter's Union President Urges A 'Yes' Vote On Pension Referendum

Jacksonville Association of Firefighters

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry took his plea for pension reform to firefighters at their union hall for a closed-door meeting Thursday.

Convincing first responders to support his tax extension is just the first step — Curry also must get them to agree to pension changes.

After the meeting, some firefighters shared their response to Curry’s visit. Firefighter’s Union President Randy Wyse said he’s urging his members to vote yes.

“This bill is owed and needs to be paid, and this is an additional funding source for that to occur,” he said.

Jacksonville residents will decide whether to extend a half-cent sales tax for 30 years to pay down $2 billion in pension debt. But for the tax to kick in, at least one of the city’s three public-employee unions must agree to close its pension to new members and make other changes. Any agreement would take some negotiating, Wyse said.

“We’ve already sat down internally and started discussing a collective bargaining strategy. We already have some ideas and we have some great ideas we think would really help with recruitment and retention,” he said.

Recently retired firefighter Neal White said closing generous pension plans could harm the talent pool.  

“We don't make a lot of money on the front end when we get hired. Eventually when we retire we hope to provide for our families. When you cut those benefits drastically, people that look at maybe coming to Jacksonville will not do it,” he said.

According to the city's web site, the average starting salary for a firefighter is $35,000. 

The mayor will continue campaigning for the tax extension with various groups of city employees through August.