JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Mayor Alvin Brown touted JEA as the solution to the city's pension problem. The city has a $1.7 billion unfunded liability to meet obligations to retirees.
Brown for the second time met with a pension board advisory committee to explain why he feels the publicly-owned utility company is the best option over raising sales or property taxes.
"I think the best course is working with the JEA where there is not a rate increase, we don't have to raise taxes. This is a great opportunity for them to invest," said Brown during a twenty minute presentation at city hall on Tuesday.
Brown wants JEA to increase its annual contribution to the city by $40 million to cover the unfunded liability. He said if JEA reworked its own pension program, the utility would save over $500 million during the next 35 years. That, combined with savings by using natural gas and increased consumer demand and productivity, has Brown believing the JEA is in a position to help.
"Ultimately this not about numbers it is about people, it is about our seniors who live on a fixed income and appreciate living in an affordable community," said Brown.
JEA customers concerneed about rate hike with the proposed pension reform solution. Roger Weeder
JEA said it is all about the numbers.
"This is just math," said Mike Hightower, who chairs the JEA board.
"What does it do to the rate payer? What it does to our rating? Whether we can afford it. Question comes up is this the mission of the JEA," Hightower said before a board meeting where staff was instructed to begin the analysis of contributing $40 million more dollars over the course of the next 14 years.
Hightower did not have a time line when the JEA would be able to complete crunching the numbers, but he promised the public will have opportunities to voice opinions on the matter at the appropriate time.
A task force studying the pension problems hopes to wrap up its work by the end of February. The goal is to have options for the City Council to explore by spring.