City council asks staff to keep track of unfunded liabilities in biennial report

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Berkeley City Council passed a resolution at their Tuesday meeting to publish a biennial report on the city’s unfunded liabilities, an issue that has been a concern for residents and city officials in recent months.

The adopted resolution asks that the city manager create a report of the city’s unfunded liabilities — costs the city must pay in the future but are not due presently — beginning in February 2013, with future reports to be published every two years.

The resolution cites projected unfunded liabilities of up to $1 billion. According to Councilmember Laurie Capitelli, around half of those costs are derived from employee pensions and benefits while the other half is mostly composed of backlogged infrastructure projects and maintenance.

Although a local group called the Committee for F.A.C.T.S. — fiscal accountability, transparency and sustainability —  has asked for similar action to the resolution passed Tuesday, members spoke in protest of the council’s actions at the meeting.

The committee gathered around 4,000 signatures to place their “F.A.C.T.S.” initiative on the ballot this November. The initiative is similar to the city’s resolution in that it would require the city to prepare and publish a biennial report specifying financial obligations for a 20-year period, including employee-related expenses and necessary capital improvements.

Committee members fear that the initiative now has to compete with the council’s resolution.

Moreover, members accused the council of passing a resolution they have little intention to follow up on. They cited a resolution passed in 2010 to provide information on unfunded liabilities that they say the city has yet to produce.

“That’s a complete misrepresentation of the facts,” said Councilmember Gordon Wozniak in response to the comments. “Their beef is that it’s not in a single report … the way they want it. All the info is there.”

Wozniak said efforts to provide information regarding these liabilities came in a number of forms, including city-run workshops regarding the subject.

Jacquelyn McCormick, coordinator for the committee, said Wednesday that although some efforts have been made by the city, they have not been comprehensive enough.

At the meeting, Capitelli expressed frustration with the fact that this resolution has been deferred by the council multiple times. He also denied allegations that the resolution was brought up to compete directly with the initiative, citing that he had brought up the resolution before any petitions were circulating.

Mayor Tom Bates said that passing the resolution would not compete with the initiative. He stated that the resolution could be passed while still allowing voters to approve the initiative this fall.

Though McCormick feels that the council’s resolution is still in direct competition with the initiative, she remained confident Wednesday that the initiative would pass come November.

“There’s a good chance that the initiative will pass,” McCormick said. “I think there were enough people that were interested in it and understand the differences.”

Jaehak Yu is the lead city government reporter.

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  • Vpeirotes

    Good for students and others who pay  attention to City governance.   For over 5 years council members Capitelli and Wozniak, mouth-pieces for a “political” strong-arming mayor have been leading citizen representatives and this community on.  Mr. Wozniak says,” The info is available if you look for it?”  What a lie.  It is the same that he told us 4 years ago and it is impossible, I assure you.  The City of Berkeley has refused to give even the most basic of info to the Mercurey News Bay Area wide data base, the only city in our tri-county choosing not to comply with “public information” requests. not to do so.  Seasoned budget scrutinizers say it is impossible to make heads or tails of Berkeley’s accounting.  What a scam this sitting council has perpetrated.  I hope students and the citizenry at large will make them accountable.

  • Calipenguin

    The City Council is just pretending to do something about the pension liability without really doing anything.  Will Berkeley end up like Vallejo or Stockton?

  • Shannon R Brown

    The only question that needs to be answered is why did the city council unanimously pass such a resolution in January 2010 and then do nothing to implement it?