With unanimous support, the Jacksonville City Council has cleared the way for voters to approve the pension solution to appear on the Aug. 30 primary election ballot. The referendum extends a half-cent sales tax dedicated to paying down the City’s unfunded pension liabilities. The approval came with all 19 City Council members signing on as co-sponsors of the bill (2016-300). The vote is the final step in the legislative process Mayor Curry’ led to address the challenges and limitations created by the City’s crippling pension debt once and for all.
“City Council has been very supportive throughout this whole process,” said Mayor Curry. “This is one of the most important votes in our city’s history. Citizens have been hearing about pension debt challenges for years while it has continued to erode the basic forms of government including public safety, infrastructure and more. For the sake of our city’s future, this has to pass. I encourage every voter to take action come August. We all have a stake in this.”
Jacksonville currently owns 25 percent of the total unfunded pension liability of more than 400 cities and counties throughout the state, paying more than $260 million for its three public pension funds. The City contribution to the three pension funds is about 25 percent of the City’s operating budget. The Police & Fire Pension Fund is currently at a 46 percent funded level with an unfunded liability of over $1.6 billion; the General Employees Pension Fund is at a 60 percent funded level with an unfunded liability of approximately $910 million; and the Corrections Officers’ Pension Fund is at a 48 percent funded level with an unfunded liability of over $120 million. The total of the unfunded liabilities of the three public pension funds is more than $2.6 billion.