JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A new decision is increasing the odds that you'll have to pay higher property taxes.
It's back to the drawing board for city leaders trying to solve a $1.5 billion unfunded liability in the pension plan for our police and firefighters. City leaders haven't been able to agree on reforms and now Action News has learned the problem is being pushed down the road until 2014.
A special task force on pension reform decided Wednesday to appoint a new committee to look at the police and fire pension plan. "I hope by spring the mayor and council could be acting on it," said Bill Scheu, Chairman of the Retirement Reform Task Force.
City council voted down Mayor Alvin Brown's pension reform plan in July, a plan the mayor claims would have significantly reduced the city's $65 million hole in this year's budget. Mayor Brown sent an email after the task force meeting saying pensions for police and fire employees account for $148 million in spending for this year's fiscal budget alone and the costs are climbing.
"Numbers like these have drawn the attention of financial experts. In fact, three major ratings agencies cite retirement costs as a threat to Jacksonville’s financial future," Mayor Brown said in an email Wednesday afternoon.
While the Retirement Reform Task Force begins selecting members for a special panel that will set the stage for next year, it's a virtual certainty you're going to pay more in property taxes this fiscal year. Action News spoke with city leaders who say that tax increase could equate to $150 a year for a home with a taxable value of $100, 000.
The Jacksonville City Council has already approved a tentative tax increase, but has not yet set the final millage rate for the next fiscal year. Notices from the property appraiser's office are being mailed to homeowners this week. This letter is meant to inform you about the assessed value of your property. It is not a bill.
Taxpayers are demanding more accountability and oversight in the pension process this time around. "According to the Sunshine Laws, the people are entitled to a seat at the meeting because we're the ones that pay the bills," said one neighbor.
Coucilman Greg Anderson says while pension reform didn't happen this year, he hopes the new pension reform panel can move the city forward. "It will be a very transparent committee. This is a group that understands the issues, and that are asking the hard questions," said Anderson.
The task force will dicuss the panel in further detail, at their next meeting scheduled for Sept. 20 at 1 p.m. in City Hall.
The City Council Finance Committee will be hammering out budget issues Thursday morning. The city's fiscal budget must be passed before the end of September.