The Jacksonville Retirement Reform Task Force is considering a property tax rate increase to help solve financial problems facing the Police and Fire Pension Fund . The task force has been examining the merits of dedicating a revenue source for up to $90 million a year strictly for the pension fund. That would be on top of a projected $120 million a year that would go to the pension fund from the city's general fund. The task force also will assess increasing what employees contribute toward their pensions. David Bauerlein the Times-Union WHO'S AFFECTEDEveryone in Duval County has a stake in the outcome of the retirement task force's recommendations because of its impact on the city's budget and the city's ability to attract and retain police and firefighters.ARGUMENTS FORPaying more up-front will reduce the pension fund's debt faster and create a framework for a long-term resolution, rather than just putting off the hard choices. The pension fund would use the infusion of money to bolster its investment portfolio with greater-income returns. In the long run, that cuts down the city's overall cost, just as paying off a credit card bill faster means a consumer ends up paying less. A property tax rate increase would enable greater funding for the Police and Fire Pension Fund without cutting essential city services such as the Sheriff's Office , fire stations, parks and libraries.ARGUMENTS AGAINSTHigher property tax rates will strain household budgets and make Jacksonville less competitive for business expansion. Property tax rates have been going up in recent years, most recently to $11.4419 per $1,000 of taxable property value, a 14 percent increase. To generate $90 million in new property taxes, it would require a tax rate increase of $2 per $1,000 of taxable property value. The economy is improving and that means the fund's investment portfolio is growing, which will bring down the unfunded liability. HOW TO GET INVOLVEDThe Jacksonville Retirement Reform Task Force will meet at 9 a.m. Wednesday and at 1 p.m. Jan. 21 . The public can comment at both sessions, which are slated for the Lynwood Roberts Room at City Hall , 117 W. Duval St. A city website at www.coj.net/retirementreform.aspx has background documents and minutes of past meetings. Comments can be sent to the task force by email at firstname.lastname@example.org .
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