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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- In the sunshine for the public to see, pension reform discussions got underway at City Hall on Friday.

Meeting with a mediator, Mayor Alvin Brown represented the city and John Keane represented the Jacksonville Police and Fire Pension Board in an hour-long organizational meeting.

Gainesville attorney Rod Smith is handling mediation duties and scheduled a half dozen meetings over the next two weeks.

The pension fund has a $1.7 billion dollar unfunded liability. A community task force appointed by the mayor met for months, recommending a half-penny sales tax be put up for a vote, combined with reducing benefits for future retirees.

Both sides agreed to work from the citizen recommendations to find middle ground.

The police and fire pension board is not prepared to talk about benefits already in place for current retires.

"They came to work under a benefit structure. We are not interested in changing that," said Keane.

Mayor Brown said he's optimistic the talks can lead to reform.

"My hope that we would have an agreement, we can work toward finishing up and finally getting this done," said Brown.

Both sides will meet again Tuesday at City Hall with the mayor's staff asked to put ideas on the table to get discussions started.

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