Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Pension Solution Is a Must for the Future

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Pension Solution Is a Must for the Future

Article excerpt

Now that the Retirement Reform Task Force has issued its findings, it is imperative that city officials act quickly to resolve costly pension issues.

"Unless reform is accomplished soon, the city's quality of life will continue to decline because of the increasing burden that pension obligations will have on the city's financial resources," the task force warned in the report given to the mayor and City Council Thursday.

Although similar alarms have been issued repeatedly in recent years, pensions remain "the single most important issue facing the city today," the task force concluded.

Unfortunately, taxpayers must suffer the financial consequences of bad policy decisions on pensions. But a bad situation will only worsen unless strong leadership comes into play.

Mayor Alvin Brown and City Council President Bill Gulliford pledged to move with dispatch to act on the recommendations in the 50-page report. The city's public safety unions need to join them, using the task force report as a framework to begin open collective bargaining.

One test of success will be whether major issues are resolved in time for the next budget year, which begins Oct. 1. Any further delays will result in needless and unaffordable costs to taxpayers.

The task force report sheds light on how Jacksonville's pensions got so out of kilter, and its sound recommendations are fair to public safety employees and taxpayers alike.


As part of shared sacrifice, which this page has advocated all along, police and fire unions must agree to modest reductions in future benefits if taxpayers are asked to pay more to resolve what can aptly be called a pension crisis.

- Taxpayers need to endure increased taxes for up to 14 years to pay down the unfunded liability of at least $1.7 billion. Failure to deal with it head-on will result in the costs continuing to escalate.

Specifically, the task force calls for a half-cent sales tax increase for up to 14 years, which would follow an initial one-year property tax increase.

- For police and fire employees, benefits already earned by current employees and benefits of retirees would not be affected.

- Current employee contributions would be increased from 7 to 8 percent of pay and would subsequently be increased to 10 percent but only after pay increases. New employees would start out at 10 percent.

The annual cost-of-living increase would change from a guaranteed 3 percent to the lower of 1.5 percent or the Consumer Price Index,.

That's more in line with other cost-of-living formulas.

For new employees, normal retirement would be age 62 or after 30 years of service; early retirement could be available after 25 years.

Even with those reasonable changes, city employees would enjoy retirement benefits that are substantially more generous than most in the private sector. …

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