Mayor Alvin Brown said he can work out a deal in which JEA can increase its contribution to the Jacksonville’s Police and Fire Pension Fund without raising rates or cutting services. Brown told a subcommittee of the Reirement Reform Task Force on Tuesday that much of the $40-million a year he wants from the utility can come from JEA restructuring its pension obligations.
Brown said he’s willing to allow JEA to set up it’s own pension plan apart from the city.He said pension changes for new employees would save JEA over $500-million over 35 years.Brown said JEA is also saving millions due to the lower costs of natural gas.He said JEA and the administration are partners in doing what’s best for the people of Jacksonville. "For every job, every company we attract here and get them to expand here and invest JEA benefits from it," he said "This is a shared vision but I think shared sacrifice. I think it's a great opportunity for the city and JEA to partner and work together." JEA Board Chair Mike Hightower said they will look closely at the Mayor’s proposal and have Chief Financial Officer Melissa Dykes and other senior leadership study its merits.Hightower said they will then present their findings to the board’s finance committee which will make a recommendation to the full board. "But I want there to be no misunderstanding that the implications is that whatever the recommendations is it will be thoroughly vetted," he said "It will be transparent and there will probably if there is a recommendation to go forward there will be multiple public hearings throughout the community so that everyone has the opportunity if that in case is the recommendation." The Retirement Reform Task Force will meet Wednesday afternoon. Members will discuss funding options to pay down the one-point-seven billion dollars Police and Fire pension obligation.The Task Force is expected to come up with its final recommendations by the end of the month.