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Mayor Brown says retirement reform is key to a balanced budget

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Updated: 7/15/2013 8:49 pm
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Mayor Alvin Brown told city leaders that tax increases and across-the-board cuts will not solve Jacksonville's financial crunch.

The mayor instead called on city council to pass his retirement reform package, which is estimated to save $1.2 billion over 30 years, and $5 million next year.

"Tax increases are not the solution," said Brown. "Deep spending cuts are not the solution. The solution is reform. We should be making it easier, not harder, for our neighbors to find economic success."

Without the reform savings, the city is looking at a $61 million hole.

Mayor Brown unveiled his proposed budget to city council members and a room full of city leaders Monday morning.

Some city council members say the mayor is playing politics with pension reform by tying it in with balancing the city budget.

Councilman Richard Clark says Brown is using his pension plan as a way to pressure the council into passing it or they are stuck with the blame of steep cuts to every city agency.

"None of us like to operate with a gun to their head," said Clark.

Proposed cuts would include the closing of branch libraries, three fire stations and three out of every four community centers.

Parent of two, Francis Eutsey, relies on the Kennedy Community Center to help provide her children with summer activities and a nutritious meal during the week. She said closing community centers will hurt her pocket book.

Her 7-year-old son James says he loves playing football with his friends at the center.

"It gives them a chance to communicate with other kids and teach them how to grow and experience things," said Eutsey.

Sheriff John Rutherford said previously, hundreds of public safety officers would be at stake. They're jobs the sheriff is saying he won't cut. "There's not a first-tier city in this country that has taken these kind of hits."

Finance chair Greg Anderson said the Mayor is relying on extraordinary lapses to make the budget appear balanced. Right now, JSO faces $29 million in cuts, but Brown's budget doesn't specify how those cuts would be implemented.

"I don't want to make these cuts," Mayor Brown told city council. "You don't want to make these cuts. They are not acceptable for the long-term good of our city."

City council has until the end of September to pass a balanced budget. It will go into effect October 1.

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