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Observations and musings on Jacksonville Politics

Will Pensions Break Jacksonville?

With Fraternal Order of Police President Nelson Cuba threatening to sue the City over a pension dispute, it’s probably time the City of Jacksonville got truly serious and faced up to the rather serious spectre of unsustainable pension contributions.  In today’s Florida Times-Union, Ron Littlepage pegs the unfunded liability at over $1 billion.

This isn’t exactly a good time to be talking about sweetening pension plans that could end up bankrupting the city.

Here are the latest figures from the Mayor’s Office on how much the unfunded liability in the city’s three pension plans has increased since the economy tanked.

– The unfunded liability for the Police and Fire Pension Fund jumped from $534 million in September 2007 to $789 million in September 2008.

– For the general employees plan, it increased from $192.5 million to $331 million.

– And for correctional officers, it went from $38.5 million to $55 million.

Add those together and it’s a total unfunded liability of $1.175 billion.

This January 2, 2009 Memo from Alan Mosley, the City’s Chief Administrative Officer, is an effort to make members of the City Council aware of the precarious path the City is currently on in relation to the three pension plans.  According to Mosley, current contributions to the Police & Fire Pension Plan—$56.5 million—will have a staggering increase of nearly 180% over the next 20 years.  One doesn’t need to know the minutia of pension plans to understand exactly how that would cripple the budget of the City.  

In truth, this debate is nothing new.  Ron Littlepage has frequently written on the topic, including a recent column in December of last year.  With many private companies taking steps to limit their ongoing pension obligations, Jacksonville’s City Council has failed to show any willingness to stare reality in the face.  That fact speaks, perhaps, to the power of the police and fire unions in the City.  Regardless, one wonders when, if ever, our political leaders will muster the courage to tackle this monstrous problem.

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  1. […] Council Tuesday night – despite the fact that the correctional officers pension fund is facing a $55 million unfunded liability at last […]

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