California schools are on the hook for $24 billion in future health care costs for their retirees, a mountain of debt that's forcing some districts to curb benefits or spend less on teacher salaries and classroom equipment, according to a new state report. Los Angeles Unified School District boasts a whopping 56 percent share — or $13.5 billion — of the unfunded liability, although it educates nine percent of California's public school population. It's historically provided some of the most generous retiree health benefits, including lifetime coverage for retirees and their spouses. Teachers' union representatives argued good health care is an essential tool for recruiting and retaining teachers. But the looming debt means newer teachers are offered skimpier benefits and less money is available to spend in classrooms.
The City Employees’ Retirement System board, which oversees pension benefits for thousands of city workers, voted unanimously to cut its assumed rate of return — the yearly earnings expected from the agency’s investment portfolio — to 7.25%, down from 7.5%.
The decision is expected to shift $38 million in retirement costs onto the general fund budget, consuming funds that would otherwise pay for basic services. And it comes at a time of increased concern over the city’s growing pension burden.
Another pension agency, which oversees benefits for thousands of retired firefighters and police officers, recently reduced its own rate of return and recalculated the expected lifespan of its beneficiaries. Meanwhile, growth in the overall city payroll is also expected to push pension payments upward.
And then there’s the Public Records Act, California’s landmark law giving the public, mostly via news media, access to official documents, with some exceptions. Unfortunately, the list of PRA exceptions seems to be growing as legislators, who are not inclined toward openness in the first place, protect their fellow officials and/or do the bidding of powerful interests. The current session has had 79 bills involving the PRA. While most of the proposals amount to innocuous boilerplate, the Legislature is moving those that create more exceptions and blocking those that would expand access.
FOUND IN: Transportation
The latest second quarter new vehicle sales data from California New Car Dealers Association shows slowing growth in Californians’ purchases of new cars and trucks, although sales remain on track to exceed 2 million once again in 2017.
Despite a systemwide drop off in ridership, almost all BART employees will receive a $500 ridership bonus in their paychecks next month as part of their labor contract, the transit agency said this week. San Francisco Chronicle columnists Matier & Ross first reported the bonus, which will go to 3,600 employees BART employees, except for around 12 or so managers who report to BART General Manager Grace Crunican.