Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

New Pension Bill Deserves Mayor's Outrage

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

New Pension Bill Deserves Mayor's Outrage

Article excerpt

Is there no end to the expensive surprises to Jacksonville taxpayers from the mismanagement of the Police and Fire Pension Board?

Apparently not.

The latest stunning news is that the city faces an unexpected $44 million pension bill.

As reported in the Times-Union, longtime consultant Jarmon Welch apparently had been understating true pension costs for years. Now as the consultant is leaving, costs were adjusted to reflect realities.

In short, life spans of retirees had been underestimated. Also, changes in employee salaries drive up costs. You live longer, pension costs go up. Payroll drops and city pension contributions go up.

And so the costs to the city's strapped budget rise as well, about 20 percent of its total budget.

It's outrageous.

Mayor Lenny Curry was furious about this shocking news, and rightly so.

Thank goodness for him. Somebody needs to stand up and protect the citizens of Jacksonville.

Pension fund chicanery, overlooked or enabled by city leaders for years, created a financial crisis for the taxpayers of Jacksonville.

The half-cent sales tax approved by the voters in August was expected to do the heavy lifting on the pension debt. Critics warned that it would not be sufficient.

Now it appears that the city may lose a waiver to make lower payments. The waiver - apparently a verbal agreement - adds one more rock to a mountain of pension confusion.

Did the state even have the authority to issue a waiver?

And where has the pension fund board been? What about the oversight?

Bill Scheu, one of the most respected civic leaders in Jacksonville, called on the mayor to be a reconciler, not a bomb thrower.

Actually, there is a time for everything, the Bible says, and this is no time to be reconciled to an outrage.

If the current oversight of the pension fund is no better than the past, then this calls for serious measures. Scheu's defensive response raises concerns about the board's current attitude and its future.

Jacksonville is now stuck with a shocking $44 million tab. And Scheu as one of the pension board members should have been out front on this.

As for Tim Johnson, the new administrator of the Police and Fire Pension Fund, he had no comment. That's a bad sign in this era of transparency and accountability. Either he has no answers or he is hiding something. Either way, it inspires no confidence.

Now the facts have to be reviewed, as they are sketchy at best.

It doesn't look good at all. And we were warned.

WARNING SIGNS

A review of the Police and Fire Pension Fund by four citizens led by Tom Majdanics warned that "reporting on the fund's performance and long-term viability is proactively infrequent, opaque and inaccessible to citizens, preventing regular external oversight. …

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