10:00 PM PDT on Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Press-Enterprise

Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Stone urged business and civic leaders to support the county supervisors’ efforts at pension reform at an economic development forum in San Jacinto on Thursday.

The annual event organized by the county’s Economic Development Agency and Stone’s office featured state-of-the-county remarks by county leaders and a video of improvement projects in the 3rd District, which Stone represents. The event was at the Country Club at Soboba Springs and was a fundraiser for area chambers of commerce.

Along with accomplishments, Stone said he had to give a “complete picture,” and that included the effects of the Great Recession and how, after other cuts in programs, jobs, pay and benefits, the county must look at pension reform.

“The bottom line, my friends, is this is unsustainable,” he said.

County officials are working on creating a second-tier pension program under which newly hired workers would receive a lower benefit than existing employees and retirees.

The Board of Supervisors hired an outside financial consultant and legal staff to help develop the plan, which is expected to be back before the board later this year.

Without any changes, the county estimates annual pension costs could rise to $300 million by 2020.

Stone said about 36 percent of the county’s discretionary budget goes to pension costs, but that could grow to 50 percent by 2020.

To read entire story, click here.