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Jax City Council Shoots Down Pension Reform - Approves Higher Maximum Millage Rate

Kevin Meerschaert

In a surprise move the Jacksonville City Council Tuesday night brought up and voted down Mayor Alvin Brown's Pension Reform Plan.  

Council President Bill Gulliford announced his intention to discharge the bill from committee at the council's agenda meeting an hour ahead of the regular meeting. 

He said there had been plenty of discussion about the bill and it needed to be decided ahead of the council's budget meetings. It caught many off guard including several council members.

For several weeks the pension reform plan was criticized by prominent groups like the Civic Council, Jax Chamber and the Concerned Taxpayers of Duval County who all said the plan didn't go far enough  for meaningful pension reform.

Gulliford says it was clear to him a majority of council members propably agreed, so he wanted a final vote to take place.

The Council also voted to increase the maximum millage rate from the current 10.03 mills to 11.53, a 15-percent increase. If it isn't lowered the average homeowner would pay about an additional $67 a year in property taxes. But council members say since the Mayor's Budget was so closely tied to perceived savings from pension reform, they were left with no options but the millage hike or face closing libraries, fire stations and community centers.        

The final millage rate can be lower than 11.53 mills. Council members say they will look for savings to lower the rate during budget hearings next month.           

Brown's Chief of Staff Chris Hand says the actions of the Council were unfortunate. He says now the city faces years of litigation over the city's pensions system.     

Kevin Meerschaert has left WJCT for new pursuits. He was the producer of First Coast Connect until October of 2018.