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November 28, 2015
Jacksonville's $1.65-billion hole

Photo: Bruce Lipsky/Florida Times-Union

Mayor Alvin Brown's plan to fund the city's pension liability would reduce pension benefits for new hires.

Northeast Florida roundup

Jacksonville's $1.65-billion hole

Jacksonville's pension obligations haunt city officials.

Ron Word | 8/28/2014

With an unfunded pension liability that’s one of the largest created by any municipal government, Jacksonville faces a long-term fight to bring its benefit costs under control.

The most recent proposal to deal with the problem — now being studied by Jacksonville’s 19-member city council — is a long way from a sure thing, however.

The plan, crafted by Mayor Alvin Brown’s administration and negotiators for Jacksonville’s police and firefighters unions, includes recommendations from a task force, aided by the Pew Charitable Trust, which spent months studying the city’s $1.65-billion unfunded liability.

The plan would reduce pension benefits for new hires and require police and firefighters to contribute 8% of their pay to the pension fund. They now pay 7%. Brown’s proposal also calls for the city to pay an additional $40 million a year on top of the $147 million it owes as part of its agreement with the police and fire unions. City officials estimate the plan would save the city $1.54 billion over the next 35 years.

The $40-million annual payment could be a sticking point, however. City Council President Clay Yarborough says Brown’s plan doesn’t identify a long-term funding source for the payment. Without “an appropriate annual funding source, I cannot support it. It is a long-term obligation that needs a long-term solution.” 

Some council members have suggested a citywide vote on a tax hike to help fund pensions but acknowledge it will be tough to sell to taxpayers. Brown, who has opposed higher taxes, has proposed a partnership with JEA, the city-owned utility, to help pay the $40 million. He also wants to create a special committee that would meet annually and recommend to the council how to fund the payment.

The council’s deliberations will play out in Brown’s bid for re-election next spring. Brown, a Democrat, has devoted much of his first term to the pension issue. Last year, the council rejected a pension reform proposal from the mayor 11 to 7.

The city council in August hadn’t yet decided on whether to ask taxpayers to vote for a tax hike to pay down the city’s pension obligations. 


A 2011 report from the Leroy Collins Institute, using 2009 actuarial data, lists Jacksonville’s police and fire pension plan among those getting an “F” for being funded at less than 60% of their obligations. Jacksonville’s plan was only 48.8% funded. An updated Collins Institute report in 2013 showed the police and fire plan as only 42.8% funded. A Morningstar report from 2013 lists Jacksonville as having the third-largest unfunded pension liability in the country, after only Chicago and Philadelphia.


  • Michael K. Slattery has been appointed senior vice president and general counsel of Advanced Disposal. He replaces Scott Friedlander, who left the company. Slattery last served as senior vice president and general counsel for Veolia Environmental Services, North America.
  • Michelle Braun has been named CEO of United Way of Northeast Florida, replacing Connie Hodges, who will become executive philanthropic outreach director and then retire in December.
  • President Ed White and COO Steve Auld of Auld & White Contractors, a Jacksonville general contracting firm, will hand over duties to Nathan Marty and Tim Conlan in a three-year transition. Marty, who has held executive positions in the company for more than 10 years will take over as CEO. Conlan, a 20-year company veteran, will take over as COO. 

Profile: Eco Relics

Opened this spring by Annie and Michael Murphy, Eco Relics in Jacksonville sells architectural salvage, antiques and hardware, operating from a warehouse in 1927 train depot industrial area south of Beaver Street.

The company dismantles buildings and salvages the parts, sells antiques and buys leftovers from contractors. It also sells new products such as plumbing supplies. “We have a little bit of everything,” says Annie Murphy. Customers include artists, architects, homeowners and contractors.

Many of the company’s 20 employees are artists who repurpose relics in the warehouse as artwork.

Home Sales

May home sales for Baker, Clay, Duval, Nassau, Putnam and St. Johns counties.

  • $159,000 Median sales price, up 2. 6% over May 2013
  • 3. 4% Increase in year-to-date median sales price 
  • 3,215 New listings, 18.5% up from the year-ago period 
  • 2,467 Pending sales, up 23.1% 
  • 84 Average days on market, down from 89 days vs. May 2013

Source: Northeast Florida Association of Real tors

Business Briefs

JACKSONVILLE— Southwest Airlines plans to cut fights between Jacksonville and Fort Lauderdale in November. Meanwhile, Jet Blue will begin offering service to Fort Lauderdale in August, and Silver Airways will begin service in October.

Jacksonville University is purchasing 39 acres immediately south of its campus from the Boys Home Association for $3.32 million. There are no specific plans for the property, which contains 10 buildings. > The 37-story Wells Fargo Center has been sold for $75.3 million. Allegiance Partners of New York paid $44.75 million and Banyan Real Estate Capital of Miami paid $30.55 million. The two firms also paid $3.7 million for a three-story garage. > The Jacksonville City Council has agreed to spend $1.25 million as part of a $4-million project to upgrade wif at Everbank Field. The Jaguars are contributing $1.8 million, with the remainder covered by savings from the ongoing $63-million stadium renovation. New NFL rules require all stadiums to have wif service. > Poma Glass & Specialty Windows plans to lay off 63 employees. > Nathan B. Forrest High School is now Westside High School, following a school board vote to change the name, which dated to 1959. Forrest was a Confederate general and the first leader of the Ku Klux Klan. The school district will spend about $220,000 to change signs, a logo on the gym foor and student athletic uniforms. > For the first time during his three years in office, Mayor Alvin Brown has proposed a spending plan without big cuts in city departments. The mayor’s $1.04-billion budget restores 80 positions in the sheriff’s office and increases library spending by $500,000. Brown is recommending $11.8 million for the first phase of revitalizing the Jacksonville Landing; $4.2 million to demolish the old Duval County Courthouse; $1.2 million for environmental cleanup at the Jacksonville shipyards and $1 million to change downtown streets from one way. 

GAINESVILLE— The Esplanade at Butler Plaza has been sold for $22.5 million to a partnership headed by Aventura developer Daniel Haberstein. The Esplanade was the oldest part of Butler Plaza, which was owned by Roy Lambert of Vero Beach and the late Clark Butler. > Gainesville Regional Airport officials have updated the airport’s master plan to attract development and carriers. The plan includes $50 million in improvements through 2020. > The University of Florida led all state universities and private colleges in the number of reported sexual assaults from 2010-12. According to a report by the U.S. Department of Education, UF reported 24 incidents of forced sex. Eckerd College in St. Petersburg led private schools with 15. UF officials say the numbers show UF is more vigilant about reporting and investigating incidents of sexual assault.

ALACHUA COUNTY— The county commission has approved a law requiring the registration of lobbyists who intend to come before them on official matters.

NASSAU COUNTY— The Fernandina City Commission has approved a proposal to convert a downtown parking lot into a park that will include a brick promenade, fountain, picnic areas, historic displays and a shaded deck. > Community Hospice of Northeast Florida has opened its seventh facility at Baptist Medical Center-Nassau, naming it in honor of Jane and Bill Warner, who contributed millions of dollars to the hospice program. Bill Warner created and chairs the Concours d’Elegance, which annually displays up to 300 rare classic cars and conducts a charity auction. 

ST. AUGUSTINE — Plans have been announced for the construction of a 206-room Courtyard by Marriott on the west side of A1A in St. Augustine Beach. > A new museum highlighting this city’s role in the civil rights movement has opened in the building where Robert Hayling had his dental practice. Hayling was a leader in the local civil rights movement. Admission to the ACCORD Civil Rights Museum (Anniversary to Commemorate Civil Rights Demonstrations) is free.

Tags: Northeast, Government/Politics & Law

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