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JEA: Mayor's pension plan could mean higher rates for customers

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Updated: 1/22 8:10 pm

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A day after Mayor Alvin Brown unveiled his latest pension proposal involving JEA giving $40 million more to the city, the head of the Jacksonville Electric Authority’s board said the plan, if approved, would mean higher rates for customers.

“There is absolutely no way you can contribute an additional $40 million to the $200 million that the JEA now contributes to the city for 25 percent of its budget without having a negative impact on the JEA customers that pay for water, sewer and electric every month,” said Mike Hightower, chairman of the JEA board.  “It's not possible.”

The mayor presented the plan to the Retirement Reform Task Force on Tuesday. He said the plan would save taxpayers more than $2.75 billion over the next three decades.

“It's pay now or pay later, there's no escaping the fact,” said John Keane, administrator of the Police and Fire Pension Fund.

While Keane supports efforts to reform the plan, he said the mayor’s proposal would end up driving police officers and firefighters elsewhere.

“With the new employee pension proposals, we could see a drastic change in the manning levels of both departments as we become more of a training ground,” he said.

Mayor Brown appointed the task force after the council rejected a negotiated agreement with the city and unions last year.  Council members felt it didn’t go far enough to solve the problem, and some are skeptical about this one too.

“I understand where the mayor is trying to come up with a solution but I just don't think this one’s going to work,” said Bill Guliford, City Council president.  “And I think they've got to give us multiple solutions.”

The Mayor’s office is standing by the proposal, and stressed the need for the task force to do its work.

“We want to have a constructive dialogue with JEA, which has been ongoing, and we want to work with the task force to come up with the best solution possible,” said Dave DeCamp, spokesperson for the mayor.

The task force faces a mid-February deadline to come up with final proposals. Members could still consider tax increases or spending cuts. The police and fire unions and the City Council all have to sign off on the plan.

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