Scheu wants Pew plan to ‘sail through’
Jacksonville Retirement Reform Task Force Chairman Bill Scheu said Monday he would like the Pew Charitable Trusts' donated research and pension recommendations by Jan. 15 and in such good shape that they would "sail through" approvals.
Scheu expanded the 11-member task force Monday to 17 and suggested to those attending Monday's special meeting that they accept Washington, D.C.-based Pew's offer to analyze Jacksonville's pension problems and offer solutions.
Scheu said he prepare an invitation letter for Pew, a nonprofit that focuses on policymaking. The task force meets at 1 p.m. Friday at the Ed Ball Building to sign off on the proposal.
Pew Senior Researcher David Draine and Jonathan Trichter, a former public finance investment banker and a principal at the MAEVA Group LLC corporate turnaround firm, presented to the task force.
Draine referred to Jacksonville's almost $2 billion in unfunded pension liabilities. "These are real challenges," he said.
Pension costs continue to take larger shares of the city budget, a nationwide issue among many states and cities.
Draine explained to the task force, which met at City Hall, that its process to identify reform options should be data-driven, open, transparent and inclusive of stakeholders.
According to the Pew presentation, a solution should accomplish three goals: Create a credible plan to pay off pension deficits over a reasonable timeframe; safeguard future pension promises that are affordable, sustainable and secure; and ensure the compensation package being offered will help recruit and retain a talented public sector workforce.
Trichter said that as a team, Pew has "examined dozens and dozens of pension plans."
"We have no specific agenda," he said.
He said Pew provides analysis that can "create a fact-based bottom line."
Trichter said Pew was well-versed in Jacksonville "and we feel there is a chance for Jacksonville to achieve real reform."
The task force meeting drew critical stakeholders including Mayor Alvin Brown, who created the task force; City Council President Bill Gulliford; Police and Fire Pension Fund Executive Director John Keane; Randy Wyse, president of the Jacksonville Association of Fire Fighters; John Winkler, president of Concerned Taxpayers of Duval County; and Jacksonville Civic Council Chairman Steve Halverson and former Chairman Peter Rummell.
Gulliford urged the task force to accept Pew's offer of pro bono assistance. "It gives us an outside perspective," he said.
Draine and Scheu both said Pew already had data about Jacksonville's pensions, which cuts time from the process. Scheu said the October task force meeting would be a "thinking out loud" discussion, followed by the analysis in November and recommendations in December.
He said Jan. 15 would be an outside date to deliver the consensus recommendations to Brown and Gulliford.
Keane said he would work with Pew by providing technical advice and assistance "to the extent they want it."
He also provided information to the Jacksonville Civic Council, the private group of almost 60 business and civic leaders who presented their pension task force's proposal last week to Brown, Scheu and Gulliford.
Scheu explained how Pew became involved. He said Trichter contacted him and commented that Jacksonville's pension system is a troubled system and "Jacksonville seems to have the political will to do something about it."
Scheu also said he has added six members to the task force: CSX Corp. Treasurer David Boor, who worked on the Civic Council proposal; former Florida Times-Union Publisher Carl Cannon; labor lawyer Tad Delegal; Jessie Ball duPont Fund President Sherry Magill; Wells Fargo Advisors executive John Thompson, who co-chaired Brown's pension transition committee; and former City Council member and Florida State College at Jacksonville Trustee Gwen Yates.