By: Pamela Arends-King, City of Tustin
I hope all of you are having a fantastic summer and that you all have some great vacation plans. It amazes me how fast it is passing by and I will have to take my son back to Minneapolis for school in less than a month.
July is usually a slow time in our finance department as we get ready to start our major preparation for the audit in August, however, we had one item that kept us busy and made us think about how we present a major item in the City of Tustin’s budget.
The Orange County Grand Jury examined the pension liabilities of orange county cities and issued a report with findings and recommendations in conjunction to their examination. The title of the report issued June 25, 2104, was “Orange County City Pension Liabilities, Budget Transparency Critically Needed.” The Grand Jury concluded that Orange County city budgets are inadequate to establish any confidence that cities are addressing their unfunded pension liabilities because they do not show explicit line items for amortizing their unfunded pension liabilities; and they show only budget projections one year into the future.
I think the Grand Jury has presented a good point in that many cities, including Tustin, may show the current pension costs based on actuarial rates and the salaries to be paid for the fiscal year, unlike the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report where the information for the City’s unfunded pension is disclosed in notes to the financial statements and with GASB 68, actually recorded as part of the Government Wide Financial Statements. The recommendations to cities to improve the transparency of the pension costs and unfunded liabilities are that city budgets should show separate line items for predicted employee and predicted employer pension contributions; for City’s with CalPERS for one or more of its pension plans the budgets should identify the names and dates of the Annual Valuation Report(s) that have the Annual Required Contributions (ARCs) and should provide a separate expenditure line item for predicted catch-up contributions based on the ARCs; and there should be a discussion of the risks associated with those CalPERS projections.
I know including those recommendations into a budget will take some extra time but I think that since our pension costs are a major budget item, implementing the Orange County Grand Jury’s recommendations makes sense. To see the entire report, go to the Orange County Grand Jury’s website, www.ocgrandjury.org.
Executive Director’s Message
By: Melissa Dixon, CAE
Happy August everyone! I just got back from a fantastic week-long vacation in Hawaii with my entire family (me, husband, three kids (ages 11, 10 and 5)). We went to Oahu, to the Disney property (Aulani)…and those of you who know my Disney-fanatic side can imagine what a great time I had! I’m finding it difficult to get back into the swing of things, so thankfully my reintegration with reality has been kind (i.e., a week with only one meeting!).
The month of August, however, will have me jumping right back in with preparations for the 2014 Strategic Planning Session. Taking place over two days, CSMFO leaders meet each year to discuss priorities for the coming year and engage in team building activities. The leadership always meets at the conference hotel, so the leaders are familiar with the venue and can aid attendees during the conference. I’m looking forward this year to spending the few days in beautiful Monterey. Also this year, rather than looking at external offerings as in years past (such as Career Development, a program that is really on a roll already), we’re going to be focusing a bit more internally. Issues such as chapter governance structures, committee succession planning and how to better utilize our past presidents (currently an untapped resource) will be the focus. Should you have any input along those lines, please feel free to share with me at firstname.lastname@example.org. As always, I appreciate your feedback!
Do you know the way to Monterey?
2015 CSMFO Annual Conference
“The Changing Tides of California Finance”
By: Tim Seufert, NBS
First things first: Put the CSMFO Annual Conference on your calendar now. The Annual Conference will be February 18-20, 2015, at the Monterey Conference Center in beautiful downtown Monterey, California. Pre-conference training and activities are slated for Tuesday, February 17 at this time. Second, make your room reservations. Lodging is at the comfortable and inviting Portola Plaza Hotel, at the discounted rate of $179 for single or double occupancy. The hotel can be reached at (888) 222-5851 and the email address is email@example.com. Third, hold on for a bit as actual Conference registration is under development. (If you are a commercial member and are interested in sponsorships information will be sent out soon, but you may email Janet Salvetti in the meantime at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
The Annual Conference Host and Program Committees are developing quality sessions and events to create that perfect combination of technical learning, professional development and networking. The express intent of the Conference is to enhance knowledge and training of the membership.
In addition to the learning and networking, take advantage of the Monday holiday and consider the abundance of extracurricular opportunities in historic Monterey! There is kayaking in Moss Landing/Elkhorn Slough, fishing in Monterey Bay, golfing at 24 local courses including a few famous ones, wine tasting (Did you know the Monterey area now boasts over 175 wineries? Check out montereywines.org), the 17 mile drive, cozy downtown Pacific Grove, historic Old Fisherman’s Wharf and beautiful views, all within walking distance of the hotel. Or come and stay earlier for the Pebble Beach Pro-Am the week before. Consider everything before making your travel arrangements. Keep checking our web site for more information!
Or, perhaps a nice walk on the beach will set the stage for some excellent learning opportunities….
GASB’s Proposed New OPEB Accounting Rules
By: Brian Whitworth, FirstSouthwest Company – 310.401.8057
Have you heard about GASB’s draft new OPEB accounting rules? Are you considering making comments before the August 29th deadline? Do you want to go to GASB’s Public Hearing in Brisbane, CA?
If you have paid close attention to GASB’s new pension rules, much of the content of the proposed OPEB changes will seem familiar: unfunded OPEB liabilities will be shown on the balance sheet; many plans will use a different discount rate; actuarial studies for determining contributions will be different from accounting entries on financial statements; the new rules do not directly affect funding; and new disclosures, new terms, and new calculations.
This would mean more liabilities moving onto the balance sheet, more work for staff, actuaries, and audit firms. For those issuing debt, it means financial advisors, underwriters, and rating agencies will need to adjust to the new rules.
For most California public entities, the bulk of GASB 67 and 68 work and research to date has been done by retirement systems, especially CalPERS and CalSTRS. CalPERS and CalSTRS will provide extensive actuarial and accounting information regarding pensions for their employers’ financial statements. Most of the employers’ work will come later, when they are working on their first GASB 68 financial statements (FYE 2015 if your fiscal year ends 6/30-12/31).
Not so for the proposed new OPEB standards. For most California entities, the employer will be responsible for understanding the standards and working with their actuary and auditor to implement them. If you currently are the person responsible for hiring and working with the OPEB actuary, and putting that information into your financial statements, your job will get harder under the proposed new rules. If you are a smaller employer (under 100 actives + inactives), there will still be an alternative measurement method, but studies would be done at least every two years rather than the current three years.
One part of the rules will cause less consternation if implemented for OPEB: discount rates. Under GASB 67 and 68, there is a potential “blended rate”, if the pension plan was ever projected to run out of money. The calculation is performed assuming no new hires are included in the pension plan. For any pension plan forecast to run out of money, cashflows beyond that point are discounted at “A yield or index rate for 20-year, tax-exempt general obligation municipal bonds with an average rating of AA/Aa or higher”. Instead of ~7-8.25% discount rates typically used for pension systems, since 2009 the BondBuyer 20 Year General Obligation Index has ranged from 3.27% to 5.41% and averaged 4.29%. The difference between using 7.5% for all benefit payments, and using 4.29% for cashflows beyond a particular point could be a very big deal in calculating liabilities for a pension system.
In contrast, the majority of OPEB plans are still pay as you go. Most of those plans use discount rates between about 3.5% and 5.0%, which is not very different than the recent range of the Bond Buyer Index cited above. OPEB plans where there is at least some prefunding commonly use higher discount rates, and many may find they have to use a “blended rate” under the new rules.
What is there to worry about in implementation? Of course, if you have unfunded OPEB liabilities, you will have more liabilities on your balance sheet, which will need to be explained to various groups. A potential problem is getting the necessary actuarial analysis in time to release your financial statements by their usual deadline. Remember that GASB 43 and 45 for OPEB were implemented over three years (largest entities in year 1, medium size in year 2, smaller entities in year 3). This time, GASB’s proposal is to implement for all employers in one year, the fiscal year starting in 2017*. This is quite a bit of actuarial and accounting work and education at once.
GASB’s proposed new standards are available at http://www.gasb.org/jsp/GASB/Page/GASBSectionPage&cid=1175804830991 . Yes, as a matter of fact they are long documents. Written comments are welcome, and can be sent to email@example.com by August 29th.
If you wish to attend the GASB public forum Sep 12th in Brisbane, register at http://www.gasb.org/jsp/GASB/Page/GASBSectionPage&cid=1176156622019 . It is an all day event, 8:30 – 5:00.* For OPEB plans “Administered through Trusts That Meet the Specified Criteria”, the plan-level reports are proposed to be implemented a year earlier, for fiscal years starting in 2016. The employer(s) in that plan would include new disclosures in their financials for the fiscal year starting in 2017. Disclaimer: The article is intended for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute legal or investment advice. Information provided in this paper was obtained from sources that are believed to be reliable; however, it is not guaranteed to be correct, complete, or current, and is not intended to imply or establish standards of care applicable to any attorney or advisor in any particular circumstances.
Senate Bill 341 New Reporting and Financial Audit Requirements
By: Tara Matthews, Senior Associate, Rosenow Spevacek Group Inc.
Senate Bill 341 created new housing reporting requirements! If you transferred assets via the Housing Asset Transfer Form to the Successor Housing Entity’s Low and Moderate Income Housing Asset Fund, then SB341 affects your annual reporting requirements.
Successor Housing Entities must submit an independent financial audit of the entity’s Low and Moderate Income Housing Asset Fund to its governing body by December 31st on an annual basis.
Successor Housing Entities must also provide an Annual Report that details compliance with the expenditure limitations detailed in SB341 during each five year compliance period. The Annual Report must include the following:
- The Amount deposited into the Housing Fund
- A Statement of the Balance of the Housing Fund
- A Description of Expenditures by Category
- The Statutory Value of Real Property
- A Description of Transfers
- A Description of Projects that receive funding through ROPS
- The Status of Properties pursuant to the 5-year Disposition Period
- An Update on Inclusionary and Replacement Housing Obligation
- Compliance with Expenditures in the 5-year Period
- The Percentage of Senior Deed-Restricted Units
- The Amount of Excess Surplus
The initial reporting period began on January 1, 2014 and ends on December 31, 2018. If the Successor Housing Entity is a Housing Authority, the Housing Authority’s Annual Report due October 1st is a great vehicle to comply with Senate Bill 341’s annual reporting requirements. However, if the Successor Housing Entity is a City or County, the information should be included in the annual Housing Element Report due April 1st.
The following graphic provides an overview of SB341 requirements!
Interest Paid to the General Fund Unless Required Elsewhere?
Research by: Tim Przybyla, Finance Director, City of Madera
Until recently, I believed that interest should be accrued and paid to the fund that owned the money. The GAAFR even tells us on page 539 that “In fund financial statements, it is presumed that investment income will be reported in the same fund as the underlying investments.” It then goes on to say “Sometime, however, the earnings on investments may legally or contractually accrue to some other fund (for example, the general fund). In this latter case, investment income should be reported directly in the fund that is legally entitled to it, unless there is a legal or contractual provision that requires that a transfer be reported.”
GASB Statement No. 31, Accounting and Financial Reporting for Certain Investments and for External Investment Pools, provides reporting standards when income from investments associated with one fund is assigned to another fund, in paragraph 14: “Often, income from investments associated with one fund is assigned to another fund because of legal or contractual provisions. In that situation, the accounting treatment should be based on the specific language of the legal or contractual provisions.”
This seems to indicate that where there are legal provisions for interest income from one fund to be assigned to another fund, the accounting treatment should be based on the specific language of the provisions. California Government Code Section 53647 states that:
“(a) Interest on all money deposited belongs to, and shall be paid quarterly into the general fund of, the local agency represented by the officer making the deposit, unless otherwise directed by law.
(b) Notwithstanding the provisions of subdivision (a), and except as otherwise directed by law, if the governing body of the local agency represented by the officer making the deposit so directs, such interest shall be paid to the fund which contains the principal on which the interest accrued.”
At first, it seemed to me that 53647 was saying just the opposite of GASB 31, because it makes payment of interest to funds other than the general fund the exception, while GASB 31 makes the payment of interest to any fund other than the fund to which the underlying investments belong the exception. Right?
After looking at this further, I realized that for cities in California, Government Code Section 53647 is a “legal provision” that requires interest to be paid to the general fund except as otherwise directed by law. That’s not a conflict with GASB 31! It’s an exception within GASB 31 that allows us to accrue interest to our general fund from all funds except those that require interest by law, such as development impact fee funds (see government code section 66006) and certain street and grant funds (find those codes on your own J).
Many cities within California (Madera included) are currently struggling with water issues, dealing with declining water levels and considering where they might be able to obtain water in the future and at what cost? So, this might not be the best time to consider taking money (interest) that previously went to the Enterprise Funds. At the same time, many of us are struggling to balance the budget within our General Fund. It’s a constant balancing act. Isn’t it? Hopefully, this information will at least present an option for your city to consider and will help you to better meet the needs of your community. Of course, I’m not an attorney. So, be sure to get some legitimate legal advice before changing the way your city or local agency accrues and pays interest. I will do the same.
Are you experiencing an increase in General Fund revenues? Need a plan to reduce your City’s unfunded liabilities?
Then check out the City of Huntington Beach’saward-winning 3-ProngedApproachforReducing Unfunded Liabilities.
By: Lori Ann Farrell, FinanceDirector, City of HuntingtonBeach
One of the goals of Huntington Beach’s Strategic Plan is to “Improve Long-Term Financial Sustainability.” To help meet this goal, the Finance Department created a unique three-pronged approach to reduce or eliminate the unfunded liabilities for its three distinct retiree benefits plans including the: 1) California Public Employees’ Retirement (CalPERS) Pension Plans; 2) Retiree Medical Plan; and 3) Supplemental Pension Plan. As the topic of unfunded liabilities is often difficult to understand, the three plans were given unique, easy to understand titles to allow for greater ease of understanding and marketability to all stakeholders including elected officials, management, employees and residents. At the center of each plan is the expedited pre-payment of the City’s unfunded liabilities through additional contributions and significant reductions in the plans’ amortization periods, made possible by increased General Fund revenue that has been received as the economy continues to improve.
As the Great Recession fades further into the rear view mirror, local governments will face greater pressure to increase salaries and enhance benefit levels for employees. However, it is also important for local governments to explore and discuss the lack of adequate funding for existing retirement benefits and promises already made to employees that are grossly underfunded. Plans such as the three pronged approach discussed below, allow for the redirection of increased revenues to existing unfunded liabilities in a way that makes financial sense yet still benefits the employees. These proposals were built in to the Proposed Budget presented to the City Council, thereby signaling a strong commitment to employees, while ensuring proper funding levels for retirement benefits previously negotiated.
A. The “One Equals Five Plan” (CalPERS)
The “One Equals Five Plan” was developed to reduce the City’s $278 million unfunded liability in its CalPERS pension plans. Based on an analysis conducted by the City’s independent actuary, each additional $1 million contributed to the City’s CalPERS Plans would benefit the City five times over resulting in $5 million in taxpayer savings over a 25 year period. Hence, staff proposed a revision to the City Council’s Financial Policies that allows for a certain amount of additional General Fund revenue received above budgeted expectations to be deposited directly into a “One Equals Five” fund for direct payment to CalPERS at the end of each year. These contributions would be in addition to the employer contributions that are deposited into the plans on a bi-weekly basis.
B. The “25 to 10 Plan” (Retiree Medical)
As of the most recent actuarial valuation, the City’s Retiree Medical Plan had an unfunded liability of $10.6 million, and a 47.5 percent funded status. To further expedite the prepayment of this liability, the Finance Department recommended that additional funds be deposited into the plan annually to reduce the amortization period of the unfunded liability from the current 25-year schedule to a 10-year schedule. The City Council unanimously approved this plan and the Budget reflects an estimated $1.0 million in additional contributions to the plan annually. The new “25 to 10 Plan” reduces the amortization of the unfunded liability from 25 years to 10 years, immediately shaving off 15 years of payments and saving taxpayers $9.2 million in the long run.
C. The “16 to 10 Plan” (Supplemental Pension)
The City also administers a Supplemental Pension Plan for all employees hired prior to 1997. The plan is 42.9 percent funded with an unfunded liability of $36.7 million. The Finance Department recommended the payment of an additional $698,000 annually to eliminate this liability in 10 years, versus the original amortization of 16 years. The “16 to 10 Plan” is projected to save taxpayers approximately $7.4 million over the long term.
These three unique strategies will result in the complete elimination of unfunded liabilities for the City’s OPEB and Supplemental Pension Plans within 10 years; and a significant decline in the CalPERS unfunded liability as well. These programs, estimated to save taxpayers $16.6 million over the next 15 to 25 years, were incorporated into the Budget and approved by the City Council.
On June 26, 2014, the Association of California Cities – Orange County (ACC-OC) presented the City of Huntington Beach with the Golden Hub of Innovation Award for its three-pronged approach to eliminate the City’s unfunded liabilities. Over 50 applications were submitted by Orange County cities for consideration of Golden Hub awards. The Selection Committee chose the City’s program due to the amount of taxpayer money saved.
This is the second award the City has received for its innovative plans to reduce unfunded liabilities. The first award was given to the City of Huntington Beach by the California Society of Municipal Officers’ at the CSMFO annual conference in Palm Springs in February 2014.
For more information on how to reduce your organization’s unfunded liabilities, feel free to contact Lori
Ann Farrell, Finance Director, City of Huntington Beach, at Loriann.firstname.lastname@example.org.
CSMFO MiniNews Committee Member Spotlight
Name: Michael Gomez
Agency: City of Riverside
Committee Chair of: Professional Standards and Recognition
Q: How long have you been in the municipal finance profession? Why did you choose this profession? How long have you been a CSMFO member? I have been working for municipalities for 12 years. My interest in municipal work started when I was in college. I had an Environmental Economics class. The class included tours of municipal utilities. The class toured three operations: water, refuse and sewer. I found the operations fascinating. Shortly after the class ended I began an internship with the City of Garden Grove. The internship provided me a greater understanding of municipal utilities and municipal governance. It was at that time I felt I found a career path.
Q: How long have you been a CSMFO member? Served on a CSMFO committee? I have been a CSMFO member since 2008. I have served the Professional Standards and Recognition Committee for nearly 3 years.
Q: What committee are you a part of now? Why did you become involved with CSMFO’s committee(s)? I’m part of the Professional Standards and Recognition Committee. I had been a non-active member for a few years. A few people had consistently talked to me about becoming involved. I was intrigued by those discussions and soon found myself wanting to be an active participant. When an opportunity to join the Professional Standards and Recognition Committee arose, I gladly accepted it.
Q: How did you come to be involved in the leadership of CSMFO? I feel I owe thanks to David Cain and Scott Catlett for mentoring and coaching me as I became active in the Professional Standards and Recognition Committee. At the time I became active in CSMFO I worked with David and we talked about leadership. Scott and I worked for neighboring agencies and would often talk about our experiences and CSFMO. I put to use the mentoring I received from David and Scott. As my work with the Professional Standards and Recognition Committee grew, so did my leadership responsibilities. It was a natural progression.
Q: What are your goals for the committee for the coming year, and how do they relate to the overall organization’s goals? CSMFO has a goal for the Professional Standards and Recognition Committee to establish an inventory of professional standards and recognition; evaluate any gaps and make recommendations for development of standards. I also plan to continue the work past Chairs (Scott Catlett and Ken Brown) have begun. Over the past couple years this Committee has worked to make the Budget and CAFR award programs more efficient for both submitters and reviewers.
Want to help shape the future of local government financial reporting?
“Use Webinars for Team Development”
Are your training budgets tight? Looking for ways to rally your team and learn together?
The CSMFO webinars provide great professional development opportunities for teams. That’s what John Adams, Finance Director in Thousand Oaks, is doing with his team.