Jacksonville Mayor Tips Hand In Pension Negotiations

Nov 1, 2016

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry is releasing details of his proposal to reform the city’s employee pension plans.

Negotiations with employee unions will decide the fate of Curry’s sales-tax extension effort, which voters approved in August. The tax cannot be extended until unions agree to close at least one of three employee pension plans to new employees.

One of their union presidents isn't thrilled with the mayor’s opening bid.


Curry is offering to make up for a 2 percent pay cut supervisors took six years ago by giving them a 4 percent pay raise starting next year. That raise would decrease to 3 percent the year after and 2.5 percent in 2019.

The city would also hand out a one-time “lump sum” payment equal to 2 percent of their current salary to more than 400 city employees.

But Jason Geiger, president of the Jacksonville Supervisors’ Association union, said the deal isn’t beneficial to the employees he represents because they’d be required to kick in more toward their pension at the same time.

“Two percent will go towards the pension, that’s correct. But we have not yet recouped our 2 percent on the salary. The one lump sum does nothing to the base salary for the employees,” he said. “So, therefore we would be back to the same wages we were back in 2010. Essentially at that point, it’d be eight years with a 0 percent increase.”

Geiger said he’s also concerned with the mayor’s proposal to push new employees into private, 401k-style retirement plans. He said that could harm recruitment efforts.

Nonetheless, he’s impressed with Curry’s direct, hands-on approach.

“The mayor is more engaged with these negotiations than previous administrations that we have dealt with in the past, including Mayor (Alvin) Brown. I was just coming in as a president under Mayor (John) Peyton, but by far Mayor Curry has been absolutely more involved with these negotiations,” he said.

Opening negotiations with six other unions representing Jacksonville’s public employees will continue this week. If any of them can’t come to an agreement, the sales tax cannot be extended.

Reporter Ryan Benk can be reached at rbenk@wjct.org, 904-358-6319 or on Twitter @RyanMichaelBenk.