Mousing around the news of the day … click.
Good grief. Are we ever going to get out of this tar pit?
Unwelcome word came this week that in the next budget year, the bill to taxpayers to support pensions for police and firefighters would come in $44 million higher than had been expected.
That would put the annual payment in the 2017-18 city budget at $202.6 million, or about one-fifth of the total general fund.
Mayor Lenny Curry isn’t happy about the turn of events.
Fingers are being pointed in many directions.
The likely culprit is one or more of the assumptions used to predict the cost of future benefits paid to retirees, such as the rate of return on the pension fund’s investments, the lifespan of retirees, the amount of payroll, etc.
I’m sure most of you are familiar with the popular saying about what happens if you assume something.
Apparently the same thing applies to assumptions.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Each year actuaries take into account all of the assumptions and determine the amount of the contribution the city must make to the pension fund to keep it healthy.
Clearly that hasn’t been working. How else can you explain the $1.7 billion debt to the pension fund that has built up over the years and has to be paid?
If the latest projection is correct, there will be less money for other city services. Things like parks, libraries and infrastructure improvements will once again go without.
If you need more evidence that the city needs to get out of the pension business and move to 401(k)-style retirement plans for city employees, as Curry argues, this is it.
Speaking of libraries getting whacked again, it’s not only city money the Jacksonville Public Library has to worry about.
On Wednesday, several dozen people made their pitches (maximum afforded time of two minutes each) to the Duval Legislative Delegation about what they hoped the Legislature would do when it meets next year.
One was Barbara Gubbin, the library system’s director.
During city budget hearings, Gubbin battles each year for money to keep the libraries open and adequately staffed.
At the same time, the state has been cutting the amount of grants the libraries use to buy materials.
Gubbin asked the delegation to work with the Legislature to reverse that trend.
Inadequate city money for libraries.
Inadequate state money for libraries.
Makes one question the city’s and the state’s priorities.
Curry also spoke to the delegation Wednesday.
One of the things he asked for was state money to redo the ramps that lead from the Hart Bridge into downtown Jacksonville.
He argued that the 50-year-old elevated ramp system is dangerous and impedes traffic flow.
This isn’t the first time this has been talked about.
The idea came up when there were plans to develop the Shipyards property and to revitalize Metropolitan Park, neither of which materialized.
Curry wants to knock down the elevated ramp system and have a new ramp that flows onto Bay Street.
Although Curry won’t focus on it, removing the unsightly ramp system and putting traffic at ground level on Bay Street would tie in nicely if the current talk about repurposing Metropolitan Park and turning the Shipyards into downtown’s waterfront park comes to fruition.
Anything that has to do with bridges in Jacksonville — changes to the Fuller Warren Bridge, the Dames Point bridge to nowhere, etc. — produces a lot of heated debate.
What’s estimated to be $50 million in changes to the Hart Bridge will be no different.
In my view, it’s a needed change as we reshape downtown, and for years, Jacksonville hasn’t received its fair share of state dollars for roadwork. It’s time we did.