The focus of recent news stories about Sonoma County’s pension fund has been on the small number of retirees with outsize pensions of $100,000 or more. But a deeper look shows both that the size of most Sonoma County pensions is modest and the funding status of the system is solid, says Stephen Gale, chairman of the Sonoma County Democratic Party. He says the real goal must be retirement security for all, rather than a race to the bottom where everybody loses.
Healdsburg city officials may turn to academia in an attempt to get a better handle on burgeoning employee pension costs.
UPDATE 7:30 PM: Rohnert Park will not contract out for police and fire services after reaching a labor deal laden with concessions from public safety workers. The agreement puts to rest a controversial proposal floated in February by the city manager to contract for police services with the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office and fire safety services from the Rancho Adobe Fire Protection District.
Santa Rosa firefighters have agreed to begin contributing to their pension costs in exchange for raises this year and next and a one-year contract extension. The tentative deal is likely to spark heated debate between council members who say it provides needed financial savings to the city and others who are against giving employees raises.
A report on options for reining in Santa Rosa’s soaring pension costs sparked a vigorous City Council debate Tuesday. Councilmembers Gary Wysocky and Susan Gorin urged the council to act quickly. But Councilmembers Ernesto Olivares and Scott Bartley said the city could wait until fall to schedule an in-depth discussion on the topic. “It’s not lightning speed, but we’re going as fast as some limitations allow us to move along,” Olivares said.
The board of the nation’s largest public pension fund voted 7-3 Wednesday to leave unchanged its expected investment return rate, which has been set at 7.75 percent since 2004. The California Public Employees’ Retirement System began reviewing its assumed rate of return about a year ago, after the fund lost about a quarter of its value in the economic downturn. Its chief actuary had recommended reducing the rate of return to 7.5 percent.
An insurance expert told Santa Rosa’s pension reform task force Thursday that the city should increase its pension contributions. Its current payments won’t be enough to dig the city out of the $101 million hole created by richer benefits and steep investment losses.
Are public sector pensions Ponzi schemes propped up by taxpayers? That’s the opinion of political consultant Brian Sobel and SSU economist Robert Eyler, who used the term Thursday to describe the pension system for government workers. Officials with the county’s pension system and largest union took issue with the description. See what created all the buzz at SSU’s annual Economic Outlook Conference.