JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- With an election year right around the corner, city's leaders are being challenged to solve a pension mess with a $1.7 billion deficit in the police and fire fund.
A task force appointed by Mayor Alvin Brown since last summer has been studying the options. On Thursday the group presented to the mayor and city council a 50 page plus outline of an action plan.
That plan includes reducing benefits as well as raising taxes to erase the huge deficit. The calls for voters being given a voice in approving a half penny sales tax that would generate an estimated $68 million a year.
"The goal is to get this done as soon as possible," said Mayor Brown following the brief presentation.
The mayor told reporters afterwards he is not on the bandwagon to raise taxes.
"I don't think need to raise taxes to solve this problem," said Brown who is pursuing getting the Jacksonville Electric Authority to contribute an additional $40 million annually. The JEA has said it doesn't believe it can pay more without raising rates.
City Council President Bill Gulliford said the can cannot be kicked down the road any longer. He says the sales tax option is the best way to raise money.
Elected city leaders during the presentation were told that failure to act on the pension deficit would have drastic consequences with cuts in city services and programs.