Phoenix Residents Paying Outsize Pension Promises

Steve Malanga reviews how Phoenix, Arizona’s public sector pension costs have risen phenomenally in 3 years.   Read the full story in

Pension costs are up about 40 percent in just three years, and they now gobble up about $250 million of the city’s $1.2 billion general fund. The average cost to fund the pension of a cop or firefighter is now $30,000 annually, and it costs $15,000 a year to finance a pension for the average non-public safety worker. This year the city is projecting a $38 million deficit thanks in part to about $18 million in new pension costs. Public employees are balking at proposed pay cuts. If it can’t get employee concessions the city has proposed a range of cuts to reduce the budget by $30 million, including:

◾Eliminate the fire prevention section of the Fire Department’s general inspection program, which would reduce fire code inspections and cut 19 positions.
◾Close 13 community centers, eliminating classes, programs and special events attended by about 500,000 residents: 84.5 positions (part-time workers); $6.22 million savings.
◾Close seven year-round recreation centers, eliminating activities for about 251,000 users: 15.8 positions (part-time workers)..
◾Close three city pools.
◾Close three senior centers, which provide meals and recreation and social services to elderly and disabled residents and eliminate 11 positions.
◾Reduce victim case-management services in the City’s Prosecutor’s Office, which helps victims of a crime navigate the court system.
◾Eliminate staff and contract positions in the graffiti-removal program, increasing the average response time for removal and reducing the sites cleaned up next year: 2 positions (2 contract staff not included); $262,000.
◾Reduce code enforcement support and inspections staffing, increasing complaint-response times and delaying follow-up checks, eliminating 12 positions.