Pew To Bring National Data, Expertise To Jax Pension Discussions

Sep 13, 2013

Pew Charitable Trusts Sr. Researcher David Draine
Credit Pew Charitable Trusts

At a meeting next Monday morning, the Jacksonville Retirement Reform Task Force will welcome the analysis of researchers from the Pew Charitable Trusts of the state of the city’s pension system.

In July, the Jacksonville City Council rejected a pension reform plan proposed by Mayor Alvin Brown.

This week the Jacksonville Civic Council introduced a proposal for the city to borrow up to $1 billion to meet their pension obligations.

David Draine, senior researcher with Pew, will be at the task force meeting Monday. Draine said Pew has been researching public pension funds for about the last six years. 

“When these are managed well, in a sustainable way, that bill gets paid when the promise gets made,” he said. “What we’ve seen in a number of cities and state is either contributions aren’t made to these plans, the plans take on risks that they can’t handle, or they raise benefits without paying for them.”
 
“That’s where you see these major funding gaps, you see cities and states rack up substantial pension debt.”

Draine said that as part of their research Pew has been monitoring cities and states who have started pension reform discussions, and that Pew contacted Jacksonville officials as a part of that monitoring. Part of what the organization will do is compare pension data from Jacksonville with numbers from other cities across the country.

“There’s no one size fits all solution,” Draine said. “Any good plan is going to meet the needs and match the goals of local leaders and local stakeholders.”

When asked about the Jacksonville Civic Council’s proposal, Draine said it would be “premature” to give preference to any one solution before discussing the issues with local leaders.

“Before we get to the point of identifying any solutions, an important piece of this is listening to stakeholders and having an open and inclusive process,” he said.

Monday’s meetings will continue that process, and Draine hopes part of the conversation will be identifying what the city wants to accomplish.

“Having a sense of what are our goals for retirement security and what can we afford to put into these retirement systems,” he said of the upcoming discussion. The meeting is scheduled to being at 9 a.m.

You can follow Patrick on Twitter @patrickhdonges.