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Jacksonville Pension Reform Accomplished, But Finding Funding 'A Big, Big Deal'

Lindsey Kilbride

Mayor Alvin Brown signed off on the new Jacksonville Police and Fire Pension reform deal Friday morning.

Earlier this month, City Council approved the agreement and Friday morning, the Police and Fire Pension Board of Trustees voted 4-to-1 in favor of the plan.

Jacksonville Fire Department Lt. Richard Tuten voted against the bill. He says he's not confident the city will keep up its end of the bargain. 

"When was the last time the city kept its promise when it came to funding the unfunded liability?" Tuten said. "I've been on the board for almost 13 years, and they haven't."

On Thursday, Police and Fire Pension Fund held a public hearing before the vote. Police and firefighters spoke up against the pension deal. 

Former Jacksonville Sheriff and board member Nat Glover voted in favor of the bill, but he says he lost sleep over his decision.

"I felt like they were talking to me directly because I had hired so many of them," Glover said. " I feel awful about that. But then it was apparent that we needed to get the pension issued settled."

City Councilman Bill Gulliford developed the deal. He says the decision is a big step, but the work isn’t over.

“Somebody said a minute ago, ‘Well, you’ve made it past the first half,’” he said after the vote. “We’ve made it through the first quarter, and we’ve got a lot to go, obviously, because funding becomes a big, big deal.”

The bill sets up a framework for paying down some of the pension fund’s debt but stops short of designating a funding source.

The city must come up with more than $340 million over the next 13 years. Gulliford says the funding should come from a sales tax. But Mayor-elect Lenny Curry has repeatedly said he will not support new taxes.