By Joe Nelson, The Sun
Posted: 01/10/15, 2:41 PM PST | Updated: 1 day ago

San Bernardino County’s contribution to its employee pensions will increase by $35.6 million in the next year, attributed to reduced rates on investment returns and increased life expectancies for pensioners, according to the county’s chief financial officer.

And those increased costs will shadow the county for at least the next 15 years.

“While I think we’ve swallowed most of the real difficult increases, we’re going to have to stay at this level for quite a while. It’s going to put continued pressure on the budget,” Chief Financial Officer Gary McBride told the Board of Supervisors at its first meeting of 2015 on Tuesday.

Supervisor Janice Rutherford called the increases “staggering,” and that in some cases more than 50 percent of what is paid in salary the county has to pay into pensions.

She commended employees who have already agreed at the bargaining table to pay more into their retirement that the county had previously picked up.

“That has helped us a great deal with this and will ultimately help them in their retirements as well,” Rutherford said.

Pension costs for the next year include a $32.8 million increase to the county and a $2.8 million increase to county fire and special districts. It is also estimated that the county’s general fund departments will see increases of roughly $12.6 million in discretionary general funding in the next fiscal year, which include a projected increase in pension obligation bond retirement payments, according to a board staff report.

The rate of expected return on investments this year decreased from 7.75 percent to 7.5 percent. Coupled with increased life expectancies for pensioners, it substantially drove the county’s costs up, McBride said.

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