A Los Angeles pension board delayed a vote Monday on the city’s planned early retirement program as union leaders stepped up their campaign to derail a controversial proposal for making the city pay off the program’s cost 10 years sooner than expected.

Eric Holoman, president of the Los Angeles City Employees Retirement System board, said he would instead convene a three-member panel to discuss the payment timeline for the early retirement initiative, which is supposed to help the city eliminate a $530-million budget shortfall.

That didn’t placate the Coalition of L.A. City Unions, which has embraced the $250-million program as the cornerstone of its effort to avoid layoffs and furloughs and had assumed its cost would be paid over 15 years. Coalition leaders were furious that Sally Choi, the head of the pension agency, sought a shorter payment schedule, a move that could add tens of millions of dollars to the program’s cost and punch a new hole into the city budget.

After Holoman’s announcement, union leaders went to the lobby of the pension agency and urged coalition members to call Choi’s office and cellphone numbers to voice their displeasure. Choi and Holoman said a lobbying campaign would not influence the board’s decision.

-- David Zahniser