Officials will discuss city budget at special session

COSTA MESA — The City Council will hold a special study session April 26 to discuss budgetary issues, including the city's $130-million unfunded liability and its current pension costs.

At issue is the city's contribution to the California Public Employees' Retirement System, or CalPERS.

"The idea is to basically give a real detailed presentation on the balance fund and what our reserves are, our cash flows are like, just sort of a primer on that issue," said William Lobdell, the city's communications manager and a former Daily Pilot columnist and editor. "Also, there's been a lot of talk about the CalPERS projections and contributions and unfunded balance. So again, 'Here's where we are, here's our projections, here's the issues surrounding that.'"

The study session will begin at 4:30 p.m. and the public will be able to question experts after each presentation.

"We want to provide the public with a foundation upon which we can have a vigorous and informed discussion about the 2011-2012 budget," Tom Hatch, the city's chief executive, said in a prepared statement. "We think this briefing will help to enhance transparency and clarify the city's financial condition."

Presentations will be on the city's fund balances or reserves, a breakdown of the $130-million unfunded liability by a CalPERS expert, and current costs and revenue expectations going into the next fiscal year.

Residents and city employees have criticized the City Council in the last few months, accusing its members of restructuring the city behind closed doors and not opening up deliberations to public scrutiny. This meeting is one of the many ways the city is looking to change its approach, Lobdell said.

"We're trying to take out as much mystery as possible," he said.

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