Potential pension solutions on the way?
City Council President Bill Gulliford said recommendations to address the massive pension problem could come out within the next week or so.
Gulliford said the public could see "things going on with directions, potential solutions" from the Jacksonville Civic Council and the Jacksonville Retirement Reform Task Force led by attorney Bill Scheu.
Gulliford talked Monday about pensions and the city budget to the Meninak Club of Jacksonsville. He did not go into details during the speech and would not elaborate afterward.
Scheu said he has asked members of the 11-member task force to keep 9-11 a.m. Monday available for a "presentation." He also declined to discuss specifics.
"You'll just have to wait and see," he said.
The task force, created by Mayor Alvin Brown to review the city's pension situation and make recommendations, has a regular meeting Sept. 20.
Calls to the Civic Council on Monday and Tuesday seeking information on any planned pension announcement were not returned.
The Civic Council has been active in the pension discussion, in June sending a letter to Brown and Gulliford stating the mayor's proposed pension plan "isn't enough" in terms of addressing unfunded pension liability and rising city contributions.
Brown proposed a plan he said would save taxpayers $1.2 billion over 30 years and $45 million in fiscal 2013-14.
Gulliford, in his first meeting as council president in late July, pulled the bill from committee and forced the issue to a vote, saying council members who would review the budget throughout August needed clarity. Brown's budget included more than $60 million in service cuts, with pension reform being a solution.
Council voted 11-7 against the deal.
Gulliford said the decision to push the bill to a vote caused angst with some council members, but tying the budget to pension reform would have been "nightmarish."
"If I had to do it again, I'd do it again," he said.
He said that generally speaking, the public "just doesn't understand the predicament we (council) are in," when it comes to pension reform and that the group is "hog-tied" because of the 30-year settlement agreement regarding police and fire pension funds that expires in 2030. The legality of that agreement is in dispute.
The council also does not serve as the collective bargaining agent in the deal, instead relying on the five-member police and fire pension fund board to negotiate and oversee the fund. Council selects two members of the board, while police and fire each choose one. The final pick is selected by the board members.
Council members have pushed in recent years to have the fifth spot a council-appointed position, giving them the majority of appointments – a move Gulliford said Monday is still needed.
"We ought to have some say so," he said.
Council is scheduled Sept. 24 to vote on a budget that's been approved by the Finance Committee after a lengthy review in August and early September, which Gulliford called a "pretty tough process."
"The budget we received (from the mayor) was not a balanced budget," Gulliford said.
Brown's proposed budget contained service cuts and extraordinary lapses, or unidentified cuts, throughout, of which Gulliford were critical.
"Going to the next level I don't think means that you cut services to the magnitude they were cut," Gulliford told more than 60 Meninak members and guests.
The Finance Committee restored more than $51 million in cuts and plans to pay for them with a millage increase of 1.1698 mills. The mayor has opposed any such increase.
Council will review the proposal Tuesday night, which is also the first public comment opportunity.
But, Gulliford said, Brown should have identified the cuts if he is against tax increases.
"If you're going to do that then you man up and you take the position and then you make it work," he said.