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Pension Costs to Skyrocket for Key S.F. City Unions 

Wednesday, Apr 13 2011

Last week, the president and vice president of the local SEIU penned an opinion column in the San Francisco Bay Guardian espousing a marvelously novel take on the city's exploding pension crisis. The problem, per the column, isn't that the city is projected to spend upward of $400 million this year on pensions — a figure that, in the near future, is expected to double. The real trouble, according to the SEIU, is that we haven't been taxing corporations and the rich to the point where funneling the better part of $1 billion into yearly pension costs in San Francisco is easily offset.

Essentially, the solution presented by the union for fixing a leaky bucket is to pour water in faster.

That comes off as rather self-serving — and the SEIU stance on pension costs takes on even more of a "pay no attention to that man behind the curtain" tone in light of data recently unearthed by SF Weekly.

A document that has raised eyebrows at City Hall reveals the vast increases between this year's pension costs and those projected for fiscal 2011-12 — and lists them per union. According to the Mayor's Budget Office, the pension payments for SEIU workers alone will jump from $111.3 million this year to $155.5 million next year — a staggering 40 percent surge.

That's by far the largest spike in costs for any union — but it's hardly an isolated financial nightmare. Pension payments to firefighters will jump $10.7 million; professional and technical engineers will get an additional $15.8 million; and police will require an additional $16 million. Greg Wagner, the mayor's budget director, says there's "no specific utility" to breaking down pension costs by union. But it sure is interesting.

All told, the city is bracing for $425.6 million in pension payments in fiscal 2011-12, when you factor in $25.5 million contributed by the city for workers who do not pay toward their pension plans. Even the most conservative projections predict the city's payments will soon balloon past half a billion dollars and keep rising.

Public Defender Jeff Adachi, the union's bête noire, laughed at the notion that such prodigious cost increases could be ameleorated by merely bleeding corporations and rich folks. "The reality is, these pension costs are going through the roof," he says.

Perhaps the rich and corporations could be taxed, however, to defer pension costs going through the roof — by raising the city's roofs.

Read the source document online at

About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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