Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Time to Shoot Straight on Pension Claims

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Time to Shoot Straight on Pension Claims

Article excerpt

Byline: Ron Littlepage

Random thoughts, some of which won't win me any friends among police and firefighters, after sitting through another round of pension talks earlier this week:

During Monday's meeting of the Police and Fire Pension Board of Trustees, Richard Tuten, the firefighters' representative on the five-member board, lashed out at City Council members.

"A couple of council members don't like police officers or firefighters," Tuten said, accusing them of "demonizing" police and firefighters.

"Frankly, I've grown tired of it," he said.

Hold on. That's just not right.

City Council members are working hard to come up with a plan that is fair to taxpayers and to the police and firefighters, that protects those pensions and that allows the city to adequately fund other city services that are critical to a high quality of life.

That's hardly an effort to demonize police and firefighters.

Another assertion made often during these discussions that needs clarification is board members referring to the $100 million that would be used to more quickly pay down the fund's $1.6 billion debt as "our money."

That is usually used to illustrate the "shared sacrifice" police and firefighters are making.

For the record, all of that $100 million comes from taxpayers.

One of the reserve accounts being tapped contains excess money taxpayers have put into the fund.

The other account contains Chapter Funds, which once again come out of the pockets of Duval County taxpayers in the form of premium taxes they pay on property and casualty insurance.

Taxpayers could legitimately argue that it's their money.

And that's on top of the $153 million taxpayers are putting into the fund this year for the city's annual payment, which continues to grow each year by unsustainable leaps and bounds. …

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