Santa Barbara County supervisors moved forward with a recommendation from the county retirement board that increases the overall employer contribution rate for retirement plans for the coming fiscal year but asked that the issue come back in an informational presentation.
Fourth District Supervisor Peter Adam voted against accepting the retirement board’s recommendation, which passed 4-1 after it was pulled off the administrative agenda, which is usually approved without discussion.
“I’m concerned what we have is a failing system. I don’t seem to have enough information,” Adams said. “I need to have a presentation with questions afterwards and have SBCERS there to answer questions so we can get our mind around whether we’re doing something responsible by adopting these rates. Who’s liable if this isn’t solid in the end?”
According to law, the board has no say in setting the rate, county counsel told supervisors, and doesn’t have the option of negotiating something different.
Counsel also told the board that in the event the county has to pay an unfunded liability, the auditor under law is required to take the money from any funds available to make the payments.
The recommendation from the retirement board sets the overall employer contribution rate for the county at 38.3 percent for most retirement plans, a 2.43-percent rate increase from the fiscal year 2012-13 rate of 35.87 percent.
It represents an approximate $7.3 million or 6.8-percent increase in the employer contribution for fiscal year 2013-14.
Third District Supervisor Doreen Farr noted that while the increase needed to be accommodated, it pushes other budget expenditures aside. She suggested a presentation about the role of the retirement board, unfunded liability, the forecast for the county’s pension future and “particularly what was in the purview of the retirement board’s authority” with regard to the supervisors.
On the grounds that the board could not change the rate, 5th District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino said he would move forward with adopting the rate, as long as further study occurs.
“My hesitancy on this is that I want to see our pension fund 100-percent funded, or as close as possible, so when you do retire that promise is viable, so you’re not chasing a rainbow and at the end of 30 years, there’s nothing there for you,” he said.
Noting that he wants to be able to explain the process to his constituents, Lavagnino said, “It just seems strange that one of the driving factors that’s driving our budget and our financial problems is something I have no control over.”
The board also heard a six-month update on the Central Coast Collaborative on Homelessness, also known as C3H, that is pulling organizations throughout the county together to address the homeless issue.
The board in June last year designated $75,000 to help organize the effort.
The proposed homeless structure and subsequent re-organization and partnerships of public and private resources were intended to reduce homelessness through the establishment of a centralized coordinating entity. That entity would have the authority to improve the effectiveness of service at a systemic level and streamline service delivery to maximize the efficient use of resources.
Farr and Lavagnino are board representatives for the collaborative, and elected officials from throughout the county have positions as well. The collaborative’s first official meeting is Feb. 14.
Also on Tuesday, the board approved unanimously as part of its administrative agenda setting a public hearing to consider adjusting the fees paid at county parks; adopted a resolution that sets in motion the annexation of three parcels at the southeast corner of East Clark Avenue and Stillwell Road known as the Clark Avenue Commercial Shopping Center/Key Site 4; rescheduling a hearing on an appeal of the Vincent Winery Development Plan until Feb. 19.
The board voted 4-1, with 4th District Supervisor Peter Adam recusing himself, to continue discussion of a wetlands delineation in the Orcutt Community Plan until May 14.