Curry Proposes Extending Sales Tax To Pay Off Pension Debt

Jan 4, 2016

 

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry talks to the press after presenting a plan to city council that would reduce the city's unfunded pension liability.
Credit Lindsey Kilbride / WJCT News

Updated 2:26 p.m. on 01/04/16

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry is asking the state Legislature to extend a half-cent sales tax to pay off the city’s $2.6 billion unfunded pension liability. Police and Fire Pension Fund debt make up more than half of it.

Monday morning at City Hall, Curry warned Jacksonville is dealing with a crisis situation.

“The sky really is falling,” he said.

“The people of Jacksonville need to know this. When they look at the roads that are crumbling. When they look at the neglected infrastructure. When they look at certain ZIP codes that have had little to no investment, promises that were made in years gone by that haven’t been kept. It’s because we don’t have the cash to do it because our budget is being eaten alive by these unfunded pension liabilities.”

Voters approved the Better Jacksonville tax during Mayor John Delaney’s administration in 2000. It’s set to expire in 2030. Curry is asking City Council to pass a resolution supporting an extension of the Better Jacksonville half-cent tax to 2060 or until the debt is paid off.

Curry says he’ll then ask the Florida Legislature to approve the new use and extension, and he’s heading to Tallahassee next week.

“And we’re just going to go over there and use our relationships and make the case as to why this is so important to Jacksonville and also what this means for the state of Florida,” Curry said. “We carry one-fourth of all of the unfunded pension liabilities in the state, so we are the problem.”

If state lawmakers agree, the Council would then have to approve Curry’s proposal with a super-majority vote. The mayor says it could free up $60 to $100 million of the city’s operating budget. That’s because, when money is guaranteed for the future, the city will pay less annually, he says.

Curry says if the proposal is successful, his priority for the extra dollars will be keeping the city safe.

Original story below:

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry is asking the state Legislature to extend a half-cent sales tax to pay off the city’s $2.6 billion unfunded pension liability including the Police and Fire Pension Fund debt.

Monday morning at City Hall, Curry warned Jacksonville is dealing with a crisis situation.

“The sky really is falling,” he said. “The people of Jacksonville need to know this. When they look at the roads that are crumbling, when they look at the neglected infrastructure, when they look at certain ZIP codes that have had little to no investment, promises that were made in years gone by that haven’t been kept, it’s because we don’t have the cash to do it because our budget is being eaten alive by these unfunded pension liabilities.”

Voters approved the Better Jacksonville sales tax during Mayor John Delaney’s administration in 2000. It’s set to expire in 2030.

Curry is asking City Council to support a resolution in favor of extending it to 2060 or when the debt is paid off. The Florida Legislature would then have to agree.