Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Jacksonville Civic Council: Borrow Up To $1 Billion To Solve City Pension Crisis

A group of prominent local business leaders is urging the city to borrow up to $1 billion and put that money into the Jacksonville Police and Fire Pension Fund as a way to solve the city’s pension crisis.

The Jacksonville Civic Council says that would make it easier to pay pension benefits over the long term.

This strategy would almost certainly require a tax increase, but the members of the council say tough and painful choices must be made to dig out of the pension hole and put the city on a firm financial footing.

"These issues are complex, and the solutions won't be easy, but we need to address them," said Steve Halverson, Jacksonville Civic Council chairman and CEO of the Haskell Company.

The council is floating the idea before the leadership of the Jacksonville City Council in hopes of getting traction.

"If you've got a house and you owe $100,000 dollars on it, and you can refinance it at 4 percent, you do so," he said. "That's the analogy we're looking at when it comes to finding a responsible way to pay down debt."

The city's Police and Fire Pension Fund has $1.7 billion in unfunded liability. In other words, it is short that amount of being able to pay all the benefits pledged to police and firefighters as they retire.

"We will honor our commitments to those who've served," says Haskell. "But I think everyone involved understands that going forward, employees will have to contribute more."

Melissa Ross joined WJCT in 2009 with 20 years of experience in broadcasting, including stints in Cincinnati, Chicago, Orlando and Jacksonville. During her career as a television and radio news anchor and reporter, Melissa has won four regional Emmys for news and feature reporting.