Rising pension costs loom over new Huntington budget

Huntington Beach's finance department forecast another balanced budget for the coming fiscal year, though it reminded City Council members of rising costs of unfunded liabilities, mostly for city employee pensions.

It's the city's second consecutive balanced budget, meaning no cuts in services, according to Finance Director Lori Ann Farrell.


In fact, additional police officers and a portion of the long-awaited senior center project are included in the budget for 2014-15. But Farrell and budget manager Carol Molina-Espinoza said during a study session Monday that pension costs will rise steadily over the next few years.

The city is expected to contribute $27.1 million toward its California Public Employees' Retirement System obligation, a $1 million increase over this fiscal year.


However, contribution rates will increase over the next eight years to enable the city to pay down its pension costs in three decades. Huntington Beach is expected to contribute about $49.3 million in the 2021-22 fiscal year.

The proposed budget includes a $500,000 surplus, which the city will use to pay down the pension costs and other unfunded liabilities, Farrell said.

City staff is proposing a $339.9 million budget for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1 — a $26.1 million increase over the current year. General-fund revenue is expected to be $207 million, a 7 percent growth, Molina-Espinoza said.

Police are projected to get two additional sworn officers, bringing the total number of full-time officers to 214. The department had 237 officers in 2008, before the recession.


The Police Department also is expected to replace 20 of its patrol vehicles, costing the city $783,528. About $850,000 is budgeted to fund helicopter repairs, a study on a shooting range and changes to the department's building to meet Americans With Disabilities Act requirements, Farrell said.

Huntington Beach is looking to get the ball rolling on its senior center by budgeting $3 million toward the project, in addition to the $1.5 million it set aside in the 2013-14 budget. The new facility, slated for Central Park, is estimated to cost about $21.5 million.

A $15 million bond will fund most of the remainder of the project, and $1 million is proposed in the 2014-15 budget to pay it down, Farrell said. The city also anticipates donations.

The budget also includes $39,200 to increase beach restroom cleaning during the summer and $35,600 toward a new summer day camp for children.

Unfunded liabilities

Unfunded liabilities are costs that the city will need to pay but has not yet budgeted for.

Huntington Beach's unfunded liabilities include:

• Increase in CalPERS, or pension, contribution rates


•800 MHz public-safety radio update project

•Workers' compensation plans

•LeBard school site funding

•Equipment replacement requests

Pension contribution costs

Huntington Beach expects to pay the following pension costs over the next eight fiscal years:

2014-15: $27.1 million

2015-16: $29.5 million

2016-17: $33.9 million

2017-18: $37.7 million

2018-19: $41.7 million

2019-20: $45.8 million

2020-21: $48.1 million

2021-22: $49.3 million