Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Tuesday Could Bring Action on Pensions

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Tuesday Could Bring Action on Pensions

Article excerpt

Byline: Ron Littlepage

Jacksonville's seemingly never-ending police and fire pension nightmare may finally be drawing to a conclusion.

Then again, probably not.

This week, City Council committees have been considering the latest version of an agreement between the Police and Fire Pension Fund Board of Trustees and the Mayor's Office.

As expected, the biggest hang-up for some council members was a condition the board added to the agreement previously approved by council that would prevent the council from unilaterally imposing pension benefit changes for current employees for 10 years.

Some council members, with Bill Gulliford being a leading example, have been adamant that the limitation is illegal because state law says collective bargaining agreements can't last more than three years.

"Personally, I can't vote to codify something that I believe is illegal," Gulliford said during Wednesday's Finance Committee meeting.

Councilwoman Lori Boyer also questioned the legality of the agreement.

A major concern for her are the assumptions made about the savings the agreement would produce.

If those assumptions are wrong and savings are much lower than predicted, nothing could be done to correct that for 10 years.

Mixed in with that was the concern that this council - with at least 10 members departing after this spring's city elections - would be binding future councils as to what actions they could take.

On the flip side was an argument articulated by Councilman Ray Holt.

This "long and winding road" of a process to achieve pension reform, as mayoral Chief of Staff Chris Hand calls it, is costing the city money.

The savings promised in the agreement won't materialize until it's a done deal.

Meanwhile, the current, more costly benefits are accumulating. …

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