Negotiators Make Opening Salvos In First Jax Pension Reform Meeting

May 6, 2014

Talks are underway on how to reform Jacksonville’s Police and Fire Pension Fund in a way that both the city and first responders can agree on.

Negotiators for the city and the pension fund met Tuesday morning at City Hall to begin hashing out a roadmap for the reform process. After the city outlined its proposal, the discussion revolved around finding points of agreement between the two sides.

Jacksonville Police and Fire Pension Fund Executive Director John Keene sits on the left side of the negotiating table, across from Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown (fourth from right) during a meeting on Tuesday morning.
Credit Cyd Hoskinson / WJCT

While pension fund negotiator John Keane seemed largely amenable to the city’s recommendations regarding new hires, he absolutely refused to consider the city’s suggestion to allow Mayor Alvin Brown to appoint one of the five pension fund trustees.

Another major sticking point is the situation with current employees.

The city’s pension fund contribution of $148 million this year will increase to $158 million next year if nothing changes. City officials say this is unsustainable.  

Among their recommendations were to increase employee contributions from 7 percent to 10 percent and require employees to work 30 years to be eligible for full benefits. Currently, police and firefighters can retire after 20 years of service.

The city also agreed to pay extra to reduce the fund’s $1.6 billion unfunded liability under the condition that the fund will also contribute more.

The morning meeting was the first of two negotiation sessions scheduled on Tuesday. The two sides will meet again twice on Thursday, May 8, with five more meetings scheduled between May 12 and 15.

You can follow Cyd Hoskinson on Twitter @cydwjctnews.