An analysis of pension expenses for cities throughout San Diego has found that costs for three of them, including La Mesa, are rising at the highest clip in the region.
The costs of contributing to future retirees' pensions will rise by 4.94 percent in the coming fiscal year in La Mesa, according to the San Diego County Taxpayers Association.
However, La Mesa doesn't have it as bad as other local communities. Rises in contributions also will take place in:
- Coronado, up 9.4 percent
- Lemon Grove, up 8.7 percent
- Del Mar, up 6.3 percent, and
- Santee, up 6.2 percent.
Imperial Beach received praise from the taxpayer advocacy group, for having costs that rose by 3.5 percent and also for having no unfunded pension liabilities in the current fiscal year, which ends in June.
Del Mar, Lemon Grove and Santee also had no unfunded liabilities.
But the unfunded liability for La Mesa for 2014 will increse by 12.8 percent to around $34.8 million. The current unfunded liability for the city for FY2013 is $30.9 million. The percentage increase is the third highest in the county, trailing only Oceanside (19 percent) and National City (18.5 percent).
Lemon Grove City Manager Graham Mitchell said the city has been reducing staff for four years in an attempt to deal with pension and other budget issues. “When you have less staff that means you're paying less for less people,” he said.
“From the city perspective we've done everything we can to reduce our pension costs,” he said.
The taxpayers association bills itself as a group “dedicated to promoting accountable, cost-effective and efficient government and opposing unnecessary taxes and fees.”
Pension expenses became a focus of tax advocates over the past decade following revelations that San Diego had mishandled its pension, choosing not to fully fund expenses for future retirees while increasing benefits for workers.
The association's report did not cover the city of San Diego, however; the organization focused on smaller agencies that are part of the statewide pension system, CalPERS.
The group also recommended that cities approach pension reform like the city of San Diego did with Proposition B, which voters passed last year. The measure, however, has been turned back by the state's Public Employee Relations Board, a decision that will be challenged in court.
The group has issued its pension analyses since 2009.