ENCINITAS — Encinitas officials voted Nov. 29 to put $500,000 of a nearly $11 million budget surplus toward its unfunded pension costs.
The City Council’s unanimous action came as officials closed the book on the 2016-17 fiscal year and recommended the council put $126,387 — or 5 percent of the surplus — toward paying down its pension debt.
While the amount the city owes toward pension fluctuates based on the performance of the state public employee retirement system, known as CalPERS, the city generally owes about $40 million toward employee pensions, and funds about 80 percent of that amount.
Mayor Catherine Blakespear pointed out that while the city during its recent run of robust budget surpluses has paid nearly $1 million toward its pension debt, paying more during the good years will allow for future councils to avoid hard choices such as paying down pension liabilities versus paying for road projects.
Blakespear said she believed the council should be putting as much money toward pensions as they have committed toward open space spending, $500,000.
“If we can in these years when we have this type of additional money, if we can chip away little bit more and not feel the pain … I think we would be better served and serve our colleagues better in the future,” Blakespear said.
The council also voted for city staff to bring back a policy on how much it should pay annually toward its pension debt, which Councilman Joe Mosca suggested.