Monday, October 26, 2009

Pension fund director cries foul over salary cuts

As Jacksonville looks to plug gaping financial holes, the Police and Fire Pension Fund has acquired arguably the biggest bull's-eye in town.

It's the overall pension debate that the fund's director says motivated the City Council to slash the fund's budget and salaries by 3 percent - a move he says is illegal and wasn't done to any other independent agency.

As it stands now, the pension fund's eight full-time employees are the only people among 8,100 city workers with a budgeted pay reduction - which fund Executive Director John Keane says shows the pension is being unfairly targeted.

City attorneys, however, say the council is well within its rights, especially because the pension fund gets money directly from the city.

The city's contribution to the fund this year is more than $79 million, Council Auditor Kirk Sherman said.

The city did not impose 3 percent salary cuts for other agencies, which include the Jacksonville Transportation Authority, Jacksonville Aviation Authority and JEA, the city-owned electric, water and sewer utility. But none of those agencies receive money directly from the city's general fund like the pension fund does, Council President Richard Clark said.

The pension's unfunded liability was about $788 million at the end of the 2007-08 budget year, Sherman said.

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