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Local Pension Costs Set to Rise, Says San Diego Taxpayers Group

Contributions from cities including Coronado are rising at a fast clip, according to a San Diego County Taxpayers Association report.

An analysis of pension expenses for cities throughout San Diego has found that costs for three of them, including Coronado, are rising at the highest clip in the region.

The costs of contributing to future retirees' pensions will rise by 9.4 percent in the coming fiscal year in Coronado, according to the San Diego County Taxpayers Association.

Rises in contributions also will take place in:

  • 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.

Coronado City Manager Blair King said through a spokeswoman that he had not had a chance to review the pension report, but added that even with retirement costs the city “by all indications” is in the best financial shape of any in the county.

Councilman Michael Woiwode added that the City Council is preparing to consider ways to cover its pension costs as part of upcoming budget talks.

“I can say that it's a priority for us to pay down pension liabilities. It's an area where we think we can invest wisely,” he said.

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.

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