Mayor, Pension Board Accomplish Historic Reform

June 19, 2015  
From left: Retirement Reform Task Force Chair Bill Scheu, PFPF Board of Trustees Chair Walt Bussells, City Council PResident Clay Yarborough, Mayor Alvin Brown, City Councilman Bill Gulliford and City Councilman Steven Joost.

Retirement Reform Agreement Saves Taxpayers $1.5 Billion Over 30 Years

Mayor Alvin Brown and the Jacksonville Police and Fire Pension Fund Board of Trustees signed off Friday on a new reform agreement that will provide long-term savings to taxpayers and support the retirements of the city’s first responders. The approval followed the City Council’s strong vote of support earlier this month for the reforms sponsored by Councilman Bill Gulliford.

The approved agreement is projected to provide $1.5 billion in savings to taxpayers over the next 30 years. The new agreement also improves the transparency and accountability of the Police and Fire Pension Fund (PFPF).

“This is a big win for Jacksonville, not just on retirement reform but also for the city’s future prosperity,” said Mayor Brown. “This agreement took a true team effort from various leaders across the city, all focused on what’s best for our community. I am proud that we were able to find meaningful compromise and agree on a plan that both protects taxpayers and respects police and fire employees.”

The signing took place shortly after a vote of approval from the PFPF Board of Trustees earlier this morning. City Council voted 14-4 for the agreement on June 9. The legislation (2015-304) was sponsored by Councilman Bill Gulliford.

City Council President Clay Yarborough said, “We’ve come the farthest that we’ve ever gotten on a big issue facing Jacksonville, and we can now move forward. That makes today a very good day for the City of Jacksonville.”

“This allows us to go ahead and move forward and stop the bleeding,” said City Councilman Bill Gulliford. “That’s what drove me to initiate this. It’s important to remind ourselves this has ramifications for many years to come.”

“Today marks a major milestone for Jacksonville,” said City Councilman Steven Joost. “When I think of today, one word could sum it up: perseverance.”

In addition to its pension benefit and PFPF governance reforms, the new agreement established the process for the City and the PFPF to reduce the pension system’s unfunded liability at an accelerated rate.

“This creates the platform going forward,” said Walt Bussells, chairman of the Police and Fire Pension Fund Board of Trustees. “There is no doubt in my mind this reform creates the platform, the sustainable platform, that financially – as tough as it is – we can begin to restore what’s been lost to our members.”

“This is not the end today,” said Police and Fire Pension Fund Executive Director John Keane. “This is the start of a new beginning.”

The Gulliford legislation, modeled after previously proposed agreements from Mayor Brown, follows the recommendations by the Jacksonville Retirement Reform Task Force. In July 2013, Mayor Brown appointed the 17-member Retirement Reform Task Force to make recommendations on how to address pension reform for the PFPF. Pension experts from the Pew Charitable Trusts provided expertise and analysis to help the Task Force in their goal. The new reforms reflect many of the group’s recommendations.

“This now means there is going to be an opportunity we didn’t have before to talk about libraries, police cars, parks and recreation,” said Bill Scheu, chairman of the Retirement Reform Task Force.