Guest Column: Speak out on extra pension contribution | Jacksonville News, Sports and Entertainment

Earlier this year, City Council passed the mayor’s pension reform bills that lowered the payment that the city will pay into the Police and Fire Pension fund on an annual basis.

The yearly payment was set to rise beyond the city’s means to pay without raising taxes or cutting city services drastically. Though this reform legislation has its benefits today, it does have its consequences tomorrow.

The pension reforms, much like a huge credit card debit, pushes the $2.8 billion liability into the future, allowing the city to make only minimum payments until a later date.

Thus, the $2.8 billion turns into over $10 billion worth of payments between 2031 and its payoff.

That $10 billion will be paid by a sales tax for $4 billion of the total, but the rest will be shouldered by the next generation having to pay $6 billion from the city’s coffers. This was a major concern from constituents and the Florida Times-Union editorials during the pension reform debate.

Prior to passage of the reforms, I drafted legislation as an amendment to the reform that added a requirement that today’s payments would be combined with an extra payment each year, based on new revenue as a fixed percentage.

My plan is to take 15 percent of that new revenue before it is budgeted and allocate it to this purpose.

These payments would reoccur each year through 2031, adding to or reduced by each year’s new revenues received.

If this plan were to be implemented, today’s generation could help pay a significant amount toward that future debt in an amount estimated to be over $500 million based on a paltry 3 percent growth rate projection.

I had this legislation filed separately as Bill 2017-348.

But since I filed this legislation on May 9, it has not been received favorably.

The administration has voiced its displeasure with the idea. And several conservative council members have voiced their concerns that the 3.8 billion extra dollars of new revenue that the city will have over and beyond the extra-contribution will just not be enough!

In 2031, it is estimated that the city will take in almost $600 million dollars a year more than today. It is my opinion that it is unconscionable to think that we do not contribute one extra dollar beyond the minimum to help the next generation with those revenue projections.

Since the bill’s filing, all of the residents I have encountered have told me that this is a good idea.

The next generation will have to shoulder over $10 billion worth of debt in paying a sales tax and pension payment that in 2047 is expected to be as high as $397 million.

This extra contribution bill is still alive, and it is about to go back into committee. But since its introduction, not much has been said or written in the press — and this includes the Times-Union editorial page — to inform citizens of this fact.

If this bill doesn’t pass, City Council will potentially be viewed as having kicked this huge debt onto others.

You can help by letting your voices be heard by all council members — call and email them with your opinion on this legislation. It is important.

If you would like more information, please visit my district website at www.dannybecton.org to see charts, graphs and information regarding the debt and the bills impact on that debt (and you can also find your council member’s email addresses).

Your voice and your opinion matter.

Danny Becton is City Council’s District 11 member.

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