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Jax Daily Record Wednesday, Jun. 4, 201412:00 PM EST

Update: Pension legislation filed in time to be introduced at council Tuesday

by: David Chapman

5:55 p.m. update:

A day after Mayor Alvin Brown and Police and Fire Pension Fund administrator John Keane reached a final agreement on pension reform, Brown filed the deal in time for it to be introduced Tuesday to City Council.

The 57-page bill, 2014-386, incorporates the changes and agreements Brown and Keane came to during more than two weeks of talks that were moderated by former state Sen. Rod Smith.

They include contribution and benefit changes to new and current employees and changes the governance structure of the fund, among other alterations.

The legislation was filed by the end of business today and will be posted online Thursday morning.


Earlier story:

It’s a deal. Again.

Almost two weeks after coming to an agreement on pension reform, Mayor Alvin Brown and Police and Fire Pension Fund administrator John Keane were back at the table discussing a deal.

A deal on which they seemingly agreed, with just the fund’s board approval needed and a final review before sending corresponding legislation to City Council.

But there were flaws in parts of the language, issues the board had.

Or, as moderator Rod Smith described it, getting married on a whim in Las Vegas and then waking up the next day wondering what happened.

“We need to get this thing done,” the former state senator told both sides at the outset, saying he could “genuinely feel frustration for both sides” about the deal that wasn’t quite a deal.

Most of what was finalized Tuesday was language and term changes, not numbers.

New employees will be treated the same as they were in the deal two weeks ago. So will current employees — no last-minute change to cost-of-living adjustments or return rates on the Deferred Retirement Option Plan.

And the $40 million the city will pay above what’s annually required is still in place, despite not having a defined funding source.

The fund received more assurance about the city’s contribution that will help pay down the more than $1.6 billion in unfunded liability.

Like last time, a six-person committee consisting of the council auditor, chief financial officer, Retirement Reform Task Force chair and others will annually meet to determine how the city pays.

Language was added that said the mayor would implement the committee’s funding source and, if not, the mayor would identify one before sending the budget to council.

And while an agreement can’t force council to appropriate the funding, the legislative body would have to certify in writing the reasons it didn’t should that funding not end up in place.

Another component added Tuesday was the share plan previously agreed upon. It’s now included instead of being added through later legislation. Such a plan can increase member benefits later.

Both sides clarified the length of the overall deal, too. Largely, the financial components will end in 2024 while governance reform ends in 2030. It was also clarified that collective bargaining units, not fund leadership, will be on the other side of the negotiating table for future talks.

When both sides Tuesday said they were good with the language hammered out over the past several hours, it was again a done deal.

After several weeks of talks followed by another unforeseen session Tuesday, Smith warned them it better. “We’re not coming back,” he said.

Smith said he’d handle any disagreement moving forward.

Brown said the goal was to introduce legislation to council today before filing deadlines. If so, the deal would then be introduced Tuesday at the next regular meeting.

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