City Council Rejects Pension Reform Package Seven Years In The Making

City Council chambers

After seven years of discussions, stops and starts, Jacksonville City Council finally came to an answer on a new agreement with the Police and Fire Pension Fund, and that answer is no.

After coming to a vote Wednesday night, the deal did not pass, failing in a 9 - 9 vote.

If current Mayor Alvin Brown wants to push forward with the pension reform he will have to draw up a new deal and submit it the council.

Clay Yarborough, president of Jacksonville's City Council, doesn't think that is very likely though because Tuesday night's election is changing the face of the current council in the coming months.

Yarborough said that the mayor would need to draw up and submit a new pension plan before the new council members that were elected take office July 1.

With current Mayor Brown set for a runoff election on May 19 against Lenny Curry, the vote Wednesday and a possible new pension plan may have a big impact with voters. 

The fund's growing deficit -- now $1.7 billion -- has been a political problem for two mayoral administrations. The proposed agreement would have changed some terms and benefits that would have helped reduce that deficit, although the current plan did not identify a funding source.

The plan would have called for current and new employees to pay more into the pension process. New police and firefighters would have had some benefit changes when they retired. Current employees would have been able to keep what they had.

Councilman Bill Bishop said the one thing that was missing from the plan was money.

"Nothing matters until you get funding source," Bishop said. "This is why I say the whole thing is designed to fail. It's designed for everybody to say, 'I voted for change,' without having to make a change because there is no funding source."