Donna Deegan says Lenny Curry’s Jacksonville pension reform put cops, fire in ‘bad position’

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Jacksonville Mayor Donna Deegan is continuing to sell her proposal to put fire and police on Florida Retirement System (FRS) pension plans.

And she’s saying that the pension reform under her predecessor is part of the reason why, as the move put public safety workers and their departments in a “bad position.”

“I think that if you look at what has happened over the last, you know, decade or so, I think there was a belief earlier that perhaps more police departments and fire departments were going to go to a 401k sort of system and that didn’t happen,” Deegan told interviewer Dan Scanlan on WJCT.

.”So when it didn’t happen, it really put our police and fire into a bad position in terms of being able to both recruit and retain talent. And if you can’t do that, then it’s hard to have a really effective department

A white paper released during the Lenny Curry administration warned against unraveling what his administration calls pension reform, but the Deegan team moved forward with FRS proposals for two public safety unions: the Jacksonville Association of Fire Fighters and the local Fraternal Order of Police.

But how much that actually costs is still unknown, and will be for a few more weeks, offering a complication to City Council members who have an interest in the price tag and how it will affect budgeting.

Per spokesperson Phil Perry, cost projections “were created for the collective bargaining negotiations” but they can’t be released until “both unions have ratified their agreements.”

Costs are certain to escalate. One informed estimate is the cost per employee could be upwards of 40%, and the proposals also include pay increases over three years ranging from 22% to 30%.

“The first realized budget impacts will be in FY28. There are several variables that make it difficult to pinpoint the exact financial impact until employee elections occur in 2027,” Perry said last month.

Defined benefit pensions were eliminated for new hires as of 2017, a condition of pension reform legislation in Jacksonville and Tallahassee. The measures authorized a successful referendum dedicating a current half-cent sales tax to defraying legacy pension debt once its current purpose of paying down Better Jacksonville Plan (BJP) obligations is fulfilled.

However, that plan to defray roughly $5 billion in legacy DB pension costs will be delayed, as the half-cent BJP tax will be slotted back toward capital costs, allowing the city to pay its $775 million obligation for renovations for the Jaguars’ stadium, with the team on the hook for $625 million.

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