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Saturday, November 17 , 2018, 12:12 am | Fair 50º

 
 
 
 

Santa Barbara County’s Pension Committee Thinks Long Term

Under discussion are options to pay back millions of dollars in unfunded liabilities

In the next 10 years, Santa Barbara County will have as many retirees as current government employees.

The Santa Barbara County Employees’ Retirement System, or SBCERS, is being examined by an advisory commission to consider pension alternatives. At Thursday’s meeting, the group discussed plans to pay back the program’s millions of dollars in unfunded liabilities.

There’s a history of unfunded liabilities even before the market crash in 2008 — in fact, half of them were accrued before 2008. SBCERS, and total employee pay, is expected to increase 3.75 percent each year, according to county actuary Bill Hallmark.

“We have to balance how well-funded we keep the plan vs. how stable we keep the contribution rates,” he said.

Human Resources Director Jeri Muth reached out to other California counties to find out how they planned to change pensions for current and future employees. Not all responded, but many plan to have employees pay a larger contribution to retirement and decrease both safety and nonsafety pensions for new employees.

Click here for a complete list of planned changes by county.

The advisory commission eventually will make recommendations of its own.

The county’s funding policy includes amortization decisions — or paying off debt in installments over a certain amount of time. Before 2009, the county was using a 15-year period but now has changed to a 17-year open method, which is like refinancing it every year to avoid interest payments, Hallmark said.

The retirement program was 75 percent funded in 2009, and with a 17-year amortization period, the program would be 85 percent funded in 2029, according to calculations by Hallmark.

Click here to view the Retirement Program Alternatives Advisory Commission’s agenda, minutes and related documents.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews.

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