This year, the city of Roseville will spend about as much to fund its pension plan as it does on parks and recreation.
San Luis Obispo County will spend five times as much on pensions as it does prosecuting criminals.
And Stanislaus County's pension costs will be nearly double its $23.5 million general fund budget deficit.
The initial logic of increasing retirement benefits to retain quality employees has been turned on its head: Paying for those benefits is forcing local governments to lay off employees – and cut programs.
The old joke is that General Motors is just a health insurance company that makes cars on the side," San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Adam Hill said during a pension presentation at a recent board meeting. "My concern is that the county government is becoming a pension provider that provides government services on the side."
Yet today's escalating annual pension payments barely touch the looming shortfall: $28 billion in unfunded liabilities – the difference between what pension systems have and the pension benefits their employees have earned – at the 80 largest city and county governments in California, according to an extensive Sacramento Bee review of pension plan valuation reports.