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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A task force studying the $1.7 billion pension deficit for police and firefighters is poised to recommend that a half-penny sales tax is the way to go.

After hours of debate, the committee decided on a fire/rescue surtax to raise money to help city hall increase its pension contributions to 200 million dollars a year.

The recommendation would go to Mayor Alvin Brown, who as recently as last week said he prefers the JEA contribute an additional $40 million to annually to help cover the shortfall.

The half-penny tax would require voter approval. It would raise an estimated $68 million a year.

Mayor Brown's spokesman David DeCamp said after the meeting the mayor has not given up on the JEA option.

University of North Florida students on Monday released the results of a poll that finds the majority of residents oppose JEA increasing annual contribution for pension obligation, with 73 percent opposed.

Three ideas that do have community support include:

-70 percent of the people poll believe future employees should have to pay more into the pension system.

-62 percent believe current employees should pay more into their pension.

-More than half of people say future public safety employees need to work longer before they are eligible to receive pension benefits.

In response to the UNF poll, DeCamp said "The Mayor's proposal does not involve a rate increase and the people who took the poll were never asked about the JEA proposal without the possibility of a rate increase."

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