Stanford report: California pension costs outpace spending for schools, public safety

Fresno BeeFebruary 22, 2012 

California cities and counties have seen pension costs rise 11.4% per year since 1999, more than twice the rate of spending on education and public safety, according to a Stanford University report released Tuesday.

The expense, which hits Fresno County particularly hard, is expected to continue to climb as local governments pay the price for overcommitting to employees and underestimating costs.

"These systems have a taxpayer-funded backstop, and that backstop has gotten pretty big," said Joe Nation, lead author of the report and a Stanford public policy professor. "When these systems come up short, they simply transfer from another fund. You transfer it from roads; you transfer it from public safety."

Fresno County has funding for just 49% of its retirement obligations, according to the report. The county's pension system ranks among the bottom third of the 24 largest independent pension systems examined by the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research. The city of Fresno's pension plans, however, rank at the top.

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