JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A no vote by the Jacksonville City Council puts the city's pension crisis back in the hands of Mayor Alvin Brown and the Police and Fire Pension Fund.
"I'm optimistic about the future. This is just the beginning of the discussion on retirement reform, just the beginning of an argument that's already lasted for years. So, what is the problem?" Brown said.
Action News sat down with the Pension Fund Executive Director John Keane to get some answers. He told us the problem is, the city owes the pension fund millions of dollars. And the interest keeps adding up.
"The interest on that is $80-plus million a year," he said. "That's what's causing the fiscal problem. It's not level of benefits for police officers and firefighters. It's the interest on the bill that the city owes to the police and fire pension fund that is inescapable. They cannot get out of it."
John Winkler, with Concerned Taxpayers of Duval County, said that's only part of the problem. He said the PFPF is making more money than it's letting on, putting taxpayers on the hook for more money that it should.
"The Police and Fire Pension Fund has created a budget crisis where there is in fact no crisis for next year," said Winkler.
City Councilman Matt Schellenberg agrees the PFPF may be exaggerating its earnings. But when it comes to budgetary issues, he says the pension board holds all the cards.
"They are playing us right now," said Schellenberg. "And we need to stand firm."
Standing firm means sending the issue back to court.
"The plan had some good parts about it. It also had some failures that were noted by both the Civic Council and the Chamber of Commerce. And that is paying down the unfunded actuarial liability," said Keane.
It seems there's only one thing on which everyone at City Hall can agree.
"What we don't want is to be tied up in litigation for the next three to five to seven years," said Brown.
Keane denies the PFPF has exaggerated its earnings. He said the fund's investments did have a couple of good years. But when you take a 10-year average, their projected earnings are exactly what they've reported.
In the meantime, pension benefits for Jacksonville's police officers and firefighters will continue, as is, until another agreement is reached.