Despite a 32% investment return in the last fiscal year, Marin County’s public pension fund is playing it safe.
The board of the Marin County Employees’ Retirement Association decided to factor in the extraordinary gain over four years rather than immediately when assigning annual employer contributions.
The association includes Marin County and eight other public entities. Its net investment return was $829.8 million for the fiscal year that ended June 30.
Last year, when the association’s board voted to cut the fund’s assumed annual rate of return from 7% to 6.75%, Block advocated reducing it to 6%. At that time, the association also lowered its assumed annual rate of inflation from 2.75% to 2.5%.
The Cheiron actuaries, however, said the association’s assumptions regarding inflation and the annual rate of return remain valid.
Marin County, Calif., supervisors have allocated $400,000 to participate in a universal basic income experiment with the Marin Community Foundation.
The foundation plans to spend $3 million to give $1,000 a month to 125 low-income women for 24 months. To qualify, the women must have a child under the age of 18.
“The ultimate endgame for this demonstration project is to have an example of how cash aid can be really helpful in terms of alleviating poverty, to test the usefulness of this approach to addressing poverty and addressing some of the racial inequities that we know exist in the county and beyond,” Johnathan Logan, a foundation vice president, told the Board of Supervisors before the unanimous vote on Tuesday.
Author(s): RICHARD HALSTEAD, THE MARIN INDEPENDENT
Teachers are upset at the Marin County Board of Education for discussing pension reform in the middle of a pandemic without any feedback from labor unions. The county board considered a resolution last month that calls on state legislators to enact pension reform, proposing several possible solutions—including weakening pensions by reducing benefits and raising the retirement age. Teachers spoke out against the nonbinding resolution, which was tabled in response to their concerns.
School districts and employees have no say in how much they pay. At Shoreline, about 10 percent of the general fund is paid to retirement funds.
The required contribution from districts has steadily risen following the passage of A.B. 1469, which was intended to fully fund CalSTRS. When the bill passed in 2014, the state required districts to pay 8.88 percent of their payroll to the teachers’ retirement system. This year, they are required to pay 16.15 percent. Mandated CalPERS contributions have risen from 11.77 to 20.7 percent of payroll costs in the same timeframe, leaving less money within districts for direct education costs.
The rising liability caught the eye of the Joint Legislative Advisory Committee, a countywide group of elected school board members and superintendents created to advocate on behalf of public education in Marin. Pension reform has been a priority for the committee since 2014, and it’s been the number-one goal since 2017.
The combination of reality and responsible caution is getting expensive for Marin public agencies that provide their workers with generous pensions.
The member agencies in the Marin County Employees’ Retirement Association are getting the latest dose and the association’s board voted to reduce its annual assumption rate on investment returns to 6.75%. It is a quarter of one percent reduction, but one that will cost agencies such as the county and the city of San Rafael thousands of dollars every year.
It recognizes a combination of expected returns on its stock market and real estate investments and that the number of pensioners is not only growing, but they are living longer and drawing more from the fund.
Living longer may be great news for the retirees, but it is an increased cost for MCERA.