Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Progress on Pension Deal, and a Big Footnote

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Progress on Pension Deal, and a Big Footnote

Article excerpt

Byline: Ron Littlepage

Last week ended well for pension reform although there are miles still to go.

The Jacksonville Police and Fire Pension Fund board met Friday morning and approved a resolution supporting the framework of the agreement reached between Mayor Alvin Brown and the fund's representative, John Keane.

The board's chairman, Walt Bussells, stressed that the City Council is still examining the agreement and may make changes that would have to come back to the board for consideration.

But he said it would be "unconscionable" to let the council do its work if the board was against the agreement as proposed, thus the need for the resolution.

The board's support of the changes in the pension plan's benefits, governance and funding is a solid step forward in what has been a long process of trying to solve the biggest threat to the city's financial health.

But hurdles clearly remain.

During Friday's meeting, Richard Tuten, who represents firefighters on the five-member board, said that police and firefighters, especially the younger ones, are nervous about what they see as a change to the so-called 30-year agreement and that's causing them to leave or retire early.

"All of this scared people to the door," Tuten said. "They are scared something else is going to happen, that another shoe is going to drop."

Former Sheriff Nat Glover, who also serves on the board, said he, too, is hearing from police officers who are about to "bolt." Much of the fear is based on false information, he said.

"There is really no reason for panic here," Glover said. "Just get the facts out there. We need advocate to say, No, that's ridiculous.'"

A clear understanding of what's in the agreement is important because we are all in this together: the taxpayers who will have to come up with the additional money to pay down the pension plan's unfunded liability, the police and firefighters who will see a change in benefits and the fund's board, which has to administer the plan. …

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