Jax Mayor Curry Gearing Up To Sell Voters A Tax Extension

Mar 29, 2016

 

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry talks to the press after presenting a plan to extend the BJP sales tax in January.
Credit Lindsey Kilbride / WJCT News

Jacksonville voters could decide this year whether to extend the Better Jacksonville Plan half-cent sales tax scheduled to expire in 2030.  

Last week, Florida Governor Rick Scott signed off, allowing the question to appear on the city ballot.

The revenue would go toward paying down the city’s more than $2.6 billion pension debt. More than half of that debt stems from police and fire pensions.

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry now has to sell the idea to residents. He said the city spends $270 million a year on pension costs.

“That is going to continue to climb and eat our budget alive and at some point we won't be able to pay our bills and everybody knows what that means. That means we’re the next Detroit,” Curry said. “So I’m going to tell the people the truth and I’m going to ask them to take an existing sales tax and extend it to deal with this pension debt so we can solve it and be done with it once and for all.”

If the repurposed tax is approved, new police and fire employees would be moved away from pension plans and toward 401K retirements plans.

The City Council will have to approve the tax-referendum wording. A vote could be on the ballot as early as August.