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Mayor Alvin Brown, City of Jacksonville propose firefighter pension reform

1:42 PM, Dec 27, 2012   |    comments
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Thursday Mayor Alvin Brown and representatives from the City of Jacksonville proposed pension reform to city fire employees.

Firefighter union representatives responded to the city by saying all negotiations regarding pension reform must go through the Police and Fire Pension Fund.

Mayor Brown said, "In this period of financial challenge, our current retirement system is no longer sustainable.  It is broken and we have to fix it so we can protect the long-term economic security of public safety employees while also protecting taxpayers."

According to a release from the city, the Police and Fire Pension Fund has a high level of unfunded liability, with assets as of October 2012 being worth $400 million less than its total pension obligations.

"For years, the City of Jacksonville has done public safety employees and taxpayers a disservice," Mayor Brown continued.  "Public safety officers were promised retirement benefits but those benefits were never fully funded.  As a result, taxpayers have been asked to carry an increasing burden of city retirement benefits.  We have to get real and solve these problems if we want to ensure financial sustainability for our city."

Brown's proposed reform would require fire employees to wait until they turned 60 to get their retirement benefits.  Under the current system an employee qualifies after 20 years of service.

The proposed plan would also eliminate cost of living adjustments and the deferred retirement option program.

The proposal would not affect any former fire employees but apply to all new and many current ones, the release said.

Based on recommendations, the proposal would lower the assumed rate of return on Police Fire Pension Fund investments from 7.75 percent to 6.9 percent.  The city's release said the 6.9 percent is a more realistic expectation.

City of Jacksonville employees who are already eligible for full retirement at the time the new plan is implemented would not be impacted.

Retirement benefits already earned by any current employees through the date the plan is implemented would not be affected but the plan would modify the future benefits earned after the new plan went into effect.

Randy Wyse, president of the local firefighters union, said the city must negotiate with the Police and Fire Pension Fund and not with the firefighters' union per an agreement with the city.

The City of Jacksonville and the FOP are already at an impasse over retirement benefit negotiations between the City of Jacksonville and police employees.  A special magistrate has been appointed for the impasse proceeding and a hearing is expected in early 2013, according to the city.

Additionally, the city has negotiation sessions scheduled with four non-public safety unions - American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), Jacksonville Supervisors Association (JSA), the Communications Workers of America (CWA), and the Laborers International Union of North America (LUNA) in January 2013.

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