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Jacksonville Pension Reform Hits Snag; Council Prez Says No To 10-Year Promise

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David Luckin
/
WJCT

This evening, the Jacksonville City Council delayed an expected vote on sweeping reforms aimed at digging its Police and Fire Pension Fund out of debt. Council President Clay Yarborough said he was worried about locking in benefit levels for a decade.

The delay came as a surprise to Police and Fire Pension Fund Executive Director John Keane. He says he supports the agreement as-is because it allows the fund’s debt to be paid off more quickly. And for the longest-serving officers and fire fighters, it would guarantee the same benefits for at least a decade. Keane says that means fewer of them will leave the force because of uncertainty.

“Public safety is the first and foremost responsibility of government at every level," he said, "and this comprehensive pension-reform proposal will strengthen the pension fund going forward in the future for all of our citizens.”

Nevertheless, City Council President Clay Yarborough said he’s not ready to make that commitment.

"To be locked in for that long of a period of time would not be, in my opinion, an appropriate thing to do," he said at Tuesday's meeting. "I think it needs further review.”

Councilman Stephen Joost challenged the delay and moved to force a vote tonight, but a majority of the Council sided with Yarborough. 

Three committees will review the plan before it reaches the full Council again. 

Jessica Palombo supervises local news gathering and production, podcasts and web editorial content for WJCT News, ADAPT and Jacksonville Today. She is an award-winning writer and journalist with bylines including NPR, Experience Magazine, and The Gainesville Sun. She has a master’s degree in broadcast and digital journalism from Syracuse University and is an alumna of the University of Florida. A nearly lifelong resident of Jacksonville, she considers herself lucky to be raising her own children in her hometown. Follow Jessica Palombo on Twitter: @JaxJessicaP