Riverside residents can now weigh in on what solutions the City Council and administrators might want to consider in paring down the municipality’s $564 million unfunded pension liability.
The gap, representing the deficit in assets needed to fully cover all past and present employees’ nest eggs, is based on actuarial estimates by the California Public Employees’ Retirement System.
The city has dubbed citizen participation in finding a fix the “CalPERS Challenge.” A website designed specifically for residents to research the liability issue and submit their ideas is now live at www.riversideca.gov/citymanager/calperschallenge.
“Public agencies across the state are all facing the same problem because of, among other things, less-than-anticipated investment returns from CalPERS dating back to the Great Recession,” Mayor Rusty Bailey said.
City Manager Al Zelinka underscored the need for “collective wisdom” to identify potential corrective measures, noting that the pension gap expanded 51 percent between 2014 and 2017.
“The information gathered through this process will be used to further the conversation between the city manager and council on how best to manage the CalPERS Challenge,” Zelinka said.
The website offers links and videos that explore the pension conundrum. There is a feedback button on which visitors can click to share their thoughts.
“As elected officials, we work for the people, so we need their input, especially on something as large as the CalPERS Challenge,” Councilman Chuck Conder said. “Tough decisions will need to be made in order to ensure our city’s future financial viability. This website is an opportunity for people to take some time to really educate themselves on the various issues at play, then provide us with their guidance.”
The Riverside County Board of Supervisors has been wrestling with a $3 billion unfunded pension liability — what Supervisor Marion Ashley has referred to as the “single biggest threat” to the county’s financial stability going forward.
Solutions that have been under consideration at the county level include asking employees to pay higher contributions toward their CalPERS retirement funds and converting some retirement plans to defined-contribution vehicles, which are the norm in the private sector.
The Riverside City Council has scheduled a pension workshop for 1 p.m. on Dec. 4 in the Art Pick Council Chamber, 3900 Main St.
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