Damon Connolly on Fiscal Responsibility & Pensions

I made it clear in my campaign that paying down our significant unfunded pension liability needs to be a County priority. Since I have been in office, we have taken significant steps by paying down our unfunded retiree liabilities beyond our required contributions. Over the past three years, we have contributed over $30 million to our “OPEB Retiree Health Trust.” The trust fund currently holds a balance of over $90 million, including over $17 million from investment earnings. The Board also took the opportunity to build up our “pension rate stabilization reserve,” which serves to guard against fluctuations in the marketplace that could result in increased pension costs, bringing the balance to a total of $7 million.

With the 2016-17 budget, the Board of Supervisors took advantage of additional revenues to both meet obligations and make further contributions against unfunded liabilities, while also balancing a range of deferred needs such as infrastructure and roads. We are also critically evaluating best practices for workforce contract negotiations, and taking steps to make sure that financial impacts of proposed benefits are fully understood and disclosed. Based on Grand Jury recommendations, the County has implemented new practices for calculating future obligations by requiring that cost analyses be publicly posted in connection with proposed collective bargaining agreements.

I took a strong stand toward fiscal transparency by fighting to reform the “Community Service Fund.” This program had previously come under considerable criticism from multiple Grand Juries and members of the public as akin to a “slush fund” where individual supervisors could direct taxpayer funds to pet projects. Under reforms I spearheaded along with Supervisor Katie Rice, the program is no longer directed by individual Supervisors, is subject to an annual fiscal cap, and grants are subject to a transparent application process where projects are evaluated as part of a public hearing process.

I will continue to make fiscal responsibility and government transparency my overarching principles on all matters of County finances, with constant attention towards paying down our unfunded retiree liabilities and ensuring that the taxpayers of Marin are as engaged as possible in the process.

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