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How will Riverside County cope with almost $3 billion pension deficit? Executive Office will continue to look at options

By in Press Enterprise on February 1, 2018

By City News Service

The Riverside County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, Jan. 30, directed the Executive Office to continue searching for ways of mitigating the “single biggest threat” to county finances going forward — an unfunded pension liability totaling nearly $3 billion — but there are scant options available, according to officials.

“It looks like we’ll be crowding out other services (to meet pension obligations),” Supervisor Kevin Jeffries said. “How do we deal with it? That’s what we need to be asking. Every answer seems to be, ‘Can’t do it.’ I’m concerned we’re looking at the wholesale elimination of departments and services.”

Treasurer-Tax Collector Don Kent and the county’s veteran actuarial consultant, John Bartel, delivered a snapshot of findings from a report by the Pension Advisory Review Committee to allow the supervisors to get a better handle on how to prioritize funding commitments ahead of budget planning for the 2018-19 fiscal year and beyond.

The PARC’s 18-page document was combined with assessments contained in two reports from the California Public Employees’ Retirement System. The data point to significantly higher costs that the county — taxpayers — will have to bear in the near future to preserve employees’ and retirees’ nest eggs.

“There’s good news in the long term,” Kent said, noting that, after about a decade, pension obligations are expected to ease up. “But the reality is, there’s going to be pain between now and then.”

CalPERS’ figures showed that in the safety category — covering sheriff’s deputies, District Attorney’s Office investigators, probation agents and others — the county will need to commit the rough equivalent of 32 percent of payroll in 2018-19, about $118 million, exclusively to cover pension obligations. By 2024-25, that figure jumps to 47 percent, based on projections.

The costs factor in the expense of amortizing pension obligation bonds issued in 2005, as well as […]    

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