Pension Questions To Ask Your Agency’s CFO, Actuary & Auditor

The following list of questions, compiled by the Reason Foundation, offers the opportunity to develop an in-depth understanding of any public agency pension plan. This list can be useful to any local elected official, journalist, or citizen activist who wants to know much more about how pension obligations affect the financial health of their city, […]

Did CalPERS Fail to Disclose Costs of Historic Bump in Pension Benefits?

How would you feel if someone told you they’d just increased your retirement benefit by 50%, took five years off the age you’d have to be when you could retire and collect this benefit, and then told you there would be almost no additional cost because the stock market was roaring? In California, that’s what […]

Did Your Agency Comply with the Law When Increasing Pension Formulas?

Since the millennium began, most city and county governments enacted retroactive pension benefit increases that more than doubled their pension costs with no end in sight. Cities and counties have been fighting back in court with some success. One legal challenge raised first against the County of Marin is based on California Government Code Section […]

How Local Officials Can Prepare for the Janus Ruling

“A public employer shall provide all public employees an orientation and shall permit the exclusive representative, if applicable, to participate.” – Excerpt from California State Assembly Bill AB 52, December 2016 In plain English, AB 52 requires every local government agency in California to bring union representatives into contact with every new hire, to “allow […]

Coping With the Pension Albatross

Instead of the cross, the albatross About my neck was hung. –  Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, 1798 In Coleridge’s famous poem, a sailor who killed an albatross has it hung around his neck as punishment. Since then, the albatross, which sailors used to consider good luck, has come to symbolize an oppressive […]

How Fraudulently Low “Normal Contributions” Wreak Havoc on Civic Finances

Back in 2013 the City of Irvine had an unfunded pension liability of $91 million and cash reserves of $61 million. The unfunded pension liability was being paid off over 30 years with interest charged on the unpaid balance at a rate of 7.5% per year. Irvine’s cash reserves were conservatively invested and earned interest […]

Tips for Negotiating with Public Sector Unions

You’ve just been elected to the city council. You’re 34 years old and you’ve been attending your city council meetings for almost a decade. You’ve served on some civic improvement commissions. You’ve been a concerned activist for most of your life. But the firefighters union contract is being renegotiated this year, and you’re about to […]

Getting the Most Out of Your Annual Agency Audit

Audits matter. In Placentia, Bell, Compton, Pasadena, Beaumont, and elsewhere, California cities needlessly lost millions, and for a time, nobody knew. Accounting is boring. Until it isn’t. Just as the devil is in the details, the financial fate of public agencies is buried in the numbers. Whether it’s via corruption or incompetence, without vigilant oversight, millions can […]

How to Put Agency Budgets Online

Across California governments are putting more of their information online. While browser-based charts and graphs showing your agencies’ revenues and expenditures will impress constituents, moving fiscal data online can be challenging – especially for those governments that do not have a lot of technology geeks on staff. Fortunately, governments now have an array of options […]

How to Identify a “Good” Bond

In November 2016 Californians approved Prop. 51, authorizing $9.0 billion in new borrowing for construction and upgrades of public schools. Also on November 8, Californians approved 171 local bond measures, authorizing over $22 billion in additional financing for construction and upgrades of public schools. This new borrowing is only to construct and upgrade K-12 and […]