JACKSONVILLE, Fla.-- Mayor Alvin Brown has offered new details about his proposal to reform the city's police and fire pension fund.
He wants the JEA to pay up to $560 million to help fund it. JEA's board of directors met Tuesday afternoon to discuss for the first time what will not only affect its own workers, but perhaps the electric rates of all its customers in the Jacksonville region.
Hours earlier at City Hall, Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown announced that he's asking JEA to contribute $40 million per year to the city's police and fire pension fund that now sucks 15 times more money out of Jacksonville's budget than it did a decade ago.
"Every dollar spent on these rising costs is a dollar taken from essential services to protect public safety, grow our economy and improve the quality of life in Jacksonville," said Brown. The mayor is now asking JEA to make that annual payment for up to 14 years.
"We're talking $560 million. That's a lot of money," said Michael Hightower, chairman of JEA's board of directors. Hightower said the city-owned utility is $5 billion in debt already.
In his letter to JEA dated Monday, the mayor wrote, "I strongly believe we can reach an accord that does not result in higher utility rates." The mayor said he'll allow JEA to employees move onto their own pension plan, a move he claims would save the utility $500 million over 35 years. City Council President Bill Gulliford said Brown is disingenuous for saying this move would not raise utility rates. "If you could create $500 million in savings and you're the JEA, you don't put it toward the city pension plan. You put it toward the JEA rate payers," said Gulliford.
JEA operated without a profit last year, but Brown issued detailed analysis offering projections of tens of millions in profits the mayor's office foresees for JEA in the next few years.
"Everyone is entitled to their opinion," said Hightower, "They will do their analysis; we will do our analysis." JEA is considering the mayor's proposal. If the board recommends the proposal, public hearings would follow.