June 1, 2018 - Does everyone know that under the governance of the current Board of Supervisors, Mariposa County's liability increased by $10,300,000 in just one year, from 2016 to 2017, and that the County has over $50,000,000 in unfunded liability? This is public information. Look it up. I am really worried what this means for our county. If I were a County employee, I would be worried about money being available in my pension package when it comes time for retirement. As a citizen of Mariposa County, I worry about what important programs are going to have to be cut.
How did we get here? Lots of reasons, including changes to CalPers (the retirement system), the Supervisors approving managerial and Sheriff's Office raises of 19 to 24 percent over 3 years ending in 2016, and the hiring of more employees. I imagine all who received raises deserved them. This is not the issue. I can imagine the County needs all its current employees and maybe more.
The problem is that the Supervisors approved raises and new hires without looking at what it would do to unfunded liability. This just isn't fiscally responsible. There must have been things they could have done to avoid this, like using the increase received by the Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) to pay it down. It did not seem like there was any strategy put in place to pay for this spending and that only now are they scrambling to change things, like raise taxes, to pay for it. This is reckless.
If you hear someone blaming the problem entirely on CalPers, it is not true. CalPers was on track to be paid off with 1) the Fresh Start option that allows agencies ways to the lower amortization denominator; 2) new Public Employees' Pension Reform Act rules; 3) staying within the 3% raise or growth rate that CalPers accounts for, and 4) not doing retro-pay or spiking certain employees on their highest one year earnings.
The unfunded liability problem is not Pers fault, it was self-inflicted. If you are going use your revenues for raises, then you cannot continue to increase staffing. This creates new funding demands over the long term. County employees' retirement packages are based on their highest earned amount and are paid by us taxpayers long after they retire.
The bottom line is that when giving raises and hiring, the Supervisors have to look at the long-term effect and make plans for how it's all going to be paid for, including the retirement benefits that are eventually going to come due.
My concern over the County's liabilities is one reason I am voting for Heather Bernikoff for District 3 Supervisor. She was sounding the alarm about this issue even before she ran for Supervisor. She even brought this up at the debate in April when the question was not asked. She knows how important it is. Her ability to understand this earned my vote. Heather has experience overseeing multi-million dollar projects and reviewing complex materials, including financials. We need a supervisor with Heather's financial experience and skills to get us through this financial crisis. I know that as Supervisor, Heather would carefully study the options, think long-term, strategize, and work toward viable solutions. I know Heather is the right person for this job. I urge other District 3 residents to vote for Heather.