Editorial

Posted: 07/23/2012 04:07:32 PM PDT

Momentum is building toward needed reforms of San Bernardino County’s pension system.

Today the Board of Supervisors is expected to discuss proposals by 2nd District Supervisor Janice Rutherford related to capping benefits, restricting pension spiking and requiring voter approval for any increases to pension benefits.

Next week 3rd District Supervisor Neil Derry intends to introduce a pension ordinance he unveiled last week that would make four changes: raise the retirement age for new non-safety county employees from 55 to 62; reduce the percentage of final salary that new safety employees will earn for each year of service from 3 percent to 2 percent; require all new and current employees to contribute toward their pension benefits; and reduce pension spiking – the practice of maximizing final-year earnings by cashing out vacation and leave time and some benefits like car allowances – by using the top three years of salary to calculate retirement income.

In recent days, each supervisor has cited statistics backing up the need to try to rein in runaway county retirement costs:

Taxpayers’ contributions to pension costs have grown from 3.1 percent of the county budget in 1999 to 9.5 percent in 2011 – and the figures are growing faster each year.

The county budget just approved allocating $375 million to pension obligations, $48.4 million more than last year.

San Bernardino County Employees’ Retirement Association reported this year that its unfunded pension liability is $1.7 billion; including payments on pension obligation bonds, the county has $2.25 billion in unfunded liabilities, about $1,000 for every man, woman and child in the county.

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