JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- $150 million and rising - Mayor Alvin Brown says the city's spending on employee pension plans will soon balloon out of control, unless there's immediate reform.
"We want to have a fair plan," he said, "A sustainable plan that's fair to the taxpayers and fair to city employees."
Here's where the problem lies. Right now, a city employee can retire after 32 years and collect a maximum of 80% of his or her salary for life. So you, as a taxpayer, are paying for their retirement in addition to paying the salary of their replacement. While it's a nice incentive for the employee, it can really add up for the taxpayer.
Former Mayor Tommy Hazouri says it's a problem that's been brewing for years. "I'm not blaming this mayor because he inherited that. Every mayor inherits something, just like every president and every governor does."
Hazouri says the city is in this pension predicament because the program hasn't been properly funded.
Action News asked, "When you were in office, were pensions this big of an issue? Or was there enough money to cover it at that point?" Hazouri replied, "We made sure that it was covered."
He went on to say, "The shame of it all is over the years, they've taken away some of the funding for the pension system and put it into other areas, to fund other programs quote, unquote without raising taxes. And now, the tax bit has come to bite them."
While Hazouri says he does not advocate raising taxes, he says it may be mayor brown's only answer. He says dipping into police and fire funding is a mistake.
"A lot of people do know that," said Hazouri. "They're willing to pay the difference. And the economy is tough to ask them to do that, but I think if you demonstrate what you're going to be doing and how you're going to do it, then I think there's a better understanding from the public."
Mayor Brown says he won't raise taxes. But he also won't reveal the specifics of his plan. "I plan to present a reform plan on pension by the end of the year," he said.