Places like Costa Mesa, for instance, chose to make a trade with their firefighters. If they were willing to freeze their wages, the city would be willing to increase their pensions. While it was a trade that allowed the city to control immediate costs, the long term consequences have helped lead the city to layoff their entire fire service, and instead outsource the services from Orange County. Boosting the pensions ended up costing $684,000 per year, which accounts for nearly half of the city’s $1.4 million budget deficit.
Similar stories can be told about San Bernardino, Citrus Heights, and Atwater; each from Southern California, Northern California, and the San Joaquin Valley, respectively.
More than 180 governments from across the state increased their pensions in recent years, leaving the state and cities with tens of millions in new debts.
From the Los Angeles Times:
Scores of California government agencies continued to sweeten employee pension plans even after the state’s economy began collapsing into recession in 2008, a decision that is now haunting them as they struggle with deficits and deep budget cuts.
A state oversight panel has identified about 180 local governments that increased pension benefits at a time when the state’s unemployment rate was rising, housing prices were falling and the nation’s banking system was in crisis. The enhancements covered thousands of public employees, adding tens of millions of dollars of new debt to local governments, analysts say.
Cities are now paying the price.
Costa Mesa boosted the retirement benefits of 84 firefighters, at a cost of $694,000 per year. At the time, officials thought the deal made financial sense because the firefighters union agreed to forgo more raises in exchange for new pensions rules that would allow them to retire at age 50 with 85% of their salary if they’d been on the job 28 years.
Read the full article here.