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Pew Charitable Trusts offering to analyze Jacksonville’s public-pension problems

by Karen Brune Mathis, Managing Editor

The Pew Charitable Trusts, a Washington, D.C.-based public-policy research organization, will dive into Jacksonville’s public-pension problems.

Three Pew executives, including senior researcher David Draine, are expected to make an introductory presentation at Monday’s special meeting of the Jacksonville Retirement Reform Task Force.

Pew has been studying public pension issues for seven years.

“We’ve been talking with them for a couple of weeks and they bring a lot of credibility and expertise,” said task force Chairman Bill Scheu.

Neither Scheu nor Draine could offer specifics about how Pew was enlisted to look at Jacksonville’s pension issues, led by a $1.7 billion Police and Fire Pension Fund unfunded liability.

The special task force meeting, which is open to the public, is scheduled at 9 a.m. Monday at City Hall in the Lynwood Roberts Room on the first floor.

Draine said Pew had several objectives for the task force presentation.

He said that in addition to introducing Pew and its research about pensions and how cities and states are addressing them, he would talk about offering its analysis and assistance.

Draine said Pew would not charge a fee.

“Pew is a nonprofit. We do this work because that’s our mission and we don’t ask for any money from state and local government,” he said.

It also partners with the Laura and John Arnold Foundation of Texas.

Scheu said the task force will listen to Pew and ask questions Monday and then further discuss Pew’s assistance at the task force’s regular meeting Friday.

Draine did not know how long a review would take.

Scheu said he would like to give a report and recommendations to Mayor Alvin Brown by the end of December or mid-January at the latest. Brown created the task force in early July.

Scheu also said he appreciated the pension-reform recommendations made this week by the Jacksonville Civic Council would further review them before commenting.

David DeCamp, Brown’s communications director, issued a statement about Pew.

“This opportunity presented by Pew and its foundation is exactly the kind of vision and leadership from Mr. Scheu and the task force that Mayor Brown sought when he set the goal of a long-term solution for retirement reform,” said David DeCamp, Brown’s communications director.

“We look forward to hearing from the organization at the task force meeting and providing any support that the task force and Chairman Scheu and the Pew center request. This group is an intellectual powerhouse on this issue and obviously it brings an independent expertise to finding a solution in Jacksonville if that is what the task force chooses to do and pursue,” he said.

kmathis@baileypub.com

@MathisKb

(904) 356-2466

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