California
Pension Tracker

Joe Nation, Ph.D.

Project Director
Stanford Institute for
Economic Policy Research

The Bottom 25% (Lowest quartile) indicates relatively lower unfunded liabilities. The Top 25% (Highest quartile) indicates relatively higher unfunded liabilities. Metrics reflect the Fiscal Year selected. Agencies reported as NA or agencies for which we do not have geographic locations are excluded from calculations. See Glossary for additional information.

Data reflect Fiscal Year (FY) , the most recent available.

Data & Methodology

Most of the categories on Pension Tracker come directly from official sources, including CalPERS, 63 independent pension systems and their employer agencies, the State Controller's Office, the State Treasurer's Office, and the California Department of Finance. Other categories are calculations or estimates, as described below. This section describes data sources and methodology in presenting or calculating each category. See the Glossary for definitions. Users may obtain the entire Pension Tracker database by sending a request to jnation@stanford.edu.

 

Pension Debt


Market Pension Debt reflects total Actuarial Accrued Liabilities for CalPERS, CalSTRS, independents, and UCRS, plus aggregate Pension Obligation Bonds utilizing CalPERS' 2013 termination discount rate of 3.723 percent minus total reported Market Value of Assets. The use of this discount rate is intended, as most financial economists agree, to more closely represent market realities and system liabilities.

Actuarial Pension Debt reflects reported Actuarial Accrued Liabilities (AAL) for CalPERS, CalSTRS, independent pension systems, and UCRS, plus aggregate Pension Obligation Bonds minus Market Value of Assets (MVA. We include POBs since they are indirect liabilities for pension systems. Sources include:

 

POB data reflect aggregated reported amounts from the California Debt and Investment Advisory Commission, State Treasurer's Office.

 

Statewide household figures are from the California Department of Finance, Table E-5, and reflect Jan. 1, 2013 figures.

 

Summary and Detailed Table Categories


The following categories are based on values reported by CalPERS, independent pension systems, the State Controller's Office, the State Treasurer's Office, and the California Department of Finance.

Assets, Liabilities and Unfunded Liabilities

  • Actuarial Liability
  • Value of Assets (CalPERS and some independent systems only; see below for independent pension systems that do not report the Market Value of Assets)
  • Market Liability (CalPERS only; see below for independent pension systems)
  • Market Pension Debt, a.k.a. Hypothetical Unfunded Termination Liability (CalPERS only; see below for independent systems)
  • Market Discount Rate (CalPERS only; see below for independent systems)
  • Pension Obligation Bonds

Sources: Annual actuarial valuations, including a special data run provided by CalPERS. California Debt and Investment Advisory Commission, State Treasurer's Office.



Contributions

  • Employer Total Contribution (%)
  • Employer Normal Cost Contribution (%)
  • Employer Other Contribution (%)
  • Employee Contribution (%)
  • Payroll

Sources: Annual actuarial valuations, including a special data run provided by CalPERS. State Controller's Office, Public Retirement Systems Annual Reports, 2008-2013.



Benefit Levels

  • Benefit Formula
  • Final Compensation Period
  • COLA (%)
  • Sick Leave Credit

Sources: Annual actuarial valuations, including a special data run. State Controller's Office, Public Retirement Systems Annual Reports, 2008-2013.



Employee and Retiree Demographics

  • Active Members
  • Retired Members
  • Average Annual Pay, Active Members (Weighted by the number of employees for employer agencies with more than one plan)
  • Average Attained Age, Retired Members and Beneficiaries (Weighted by the number of employees for employer agencies with more than one plan)

Sources: Annual actuarial valuations, including a special data run provided by CalPERS.



Agency Expenditure & Revenue

  • Total Expenditures ($)
  • Operating Expenditures ($)
  • Total Revenues ($)
  • Tax Revenues ($)

Sources: State Controller's Office, "By The Numbers."



Agency Demographics

  • Population (Counties and Cities only; see below for Special Districts)
  • Households (Counties and Cities only; see below for Special Districts)

Sources: California Department of Finance, Table E-1 and the California Department of Finance, Table E-5.




Data for the following categories are calculated, estimated, or assumed:


Assets, Liabilities and Unfunded Liabilities

  • Value of Assets (Independent pension systems that do not Market Value of Assets; Value of Assets estimated based on ratio of aggregate Actuarial Value of Assets and aggregate Market Value of Assets for all independent pension systems).
  • Actuarial Pension Debt: Actuarial Liability minus Value of Assets.
  • Market Liability (Independent pension systems only): Estimated using CalPERS termination discount rates, which ranged from 2.82% to 4.82% between 2011 and 2013.
  • Market Pension Debt, a.k.a. Unfunded Termination Liability (Independent pension systems only): Market Liability minus Value of Assets. Market Liability estimated as reported Actuarial Liability*((1+r)^16/(1+t)^16), where r = reported discount rate and t = market or termination discount rate; 16 indicates the average duration of liabilities, in years.
  • Market Discount Rate (Independent only): Assumed equivalent to CalPERS termination discount rates, which ranged from 2.82% to 4.82% between 2011 and 2013.


Funded Ratios

  • Funded ratio using discount rates reported by most systems, typically 7.5%.
  • Market Funded Ratio: Value of Assets divided by Market Liability


Contributions

  • Employer Total Pension Contribution ($): Employer Total Contribution (%) times Payroll
  • Employer Normal Cost Contribution ($): Employer Normal Cost Contribution ($): times Payroll
  • Employer Other Contribution ($): Employer Other Contribution ($) times Payroll
  • Employee Contribution ($): Employee Contribution ($) times Payroll


Employee and Retiree Demographics

  • Retired/Active Ratio: Active Members divided by Retired Members


Agency Demographics

  • Population (Special Districts only): Reported values where available; otherwise estimated based on available information (See Special District Population and Household Estimates below.)
  • Households (Special Districts only): Reported values where available; otherwise estimated based on available information (See Special District Population and Household Estimates below.)


Market Pension Debt

Unfunded Market Liability

  • Market Pension Debt/Household: Market Liability divided by Households
  • Market Pension Debt/Capita: Market Liability divided by Population
  • Market Pension Debt/Total Expenditures: Market Liability divided by Total Expenditures
  • Market Pension Debt/Operating Expenditures: Market Liability divided by Operating Expenditures
  • Market Pension Debt/Payroll: Market Liability divided by Payroll
  • Market Pension Debt/Employer Total Pension Contribution: Market Liability divided by Total Pension Contribution
  • Market Pension Debt/Total Revenues: Market Liability divided by Total Revenues
  • Market Pension Debt/Tax Revenues: Market Liability divided by Tax Revenues

    Higher numbers are worse; lower numbers are better.

Actuarial Pension Debt

  • Actuarial Pension Debt/Household: Actuarial Liability divided by Households
  • Actuarial Pension Debt/Capita: Actuarial Liability divided by Population
  • Actuarial Pension Debt/Total Expenditures: Actuarial Liability divided by Total Expenditures
  • Actuarial Pension Debt/Operating Expenditures: Actuarial Liability divided by Operating Expenditures
  • Actuarial Pension Debt/Payroll: Actuarial Liability divided by Payroll
  • Actuarial Pension Debt/Employer Total Pension Contribution: Actuarial Liability divided by Total Pension Contribution
  • Actuarial Pension Debt/Total Revenues: Actuarial Liability divided by Total Revenues
  • Actuarial Pension Debt/Tax Revenues: Actuarial Liability divided by Tax Revenues

    Higher numbers are worse; lower numbers are better.

Employer Total Pension Contribution

  • Employer Total Pension Contribution ($)/Total Expenditures ($): Employer Total Pension Contribution ($) divided by Total Expenditures ($)
  • Employer Total Pension Contribution ($)/Operating Expenditures ($): Employer Total Pension Contribution ($) divided by Operating Expenditures ($)
  • Employer Total Pension Contribution ($)/Total Revenues ($): Employer Total Pension Contribution ($) divided by Total Revenues ($)
  • Employer Total Pension Contribution ($)/Tax Revenues ($): Employer Total Pension Contribution ($) divided by Tax Revenues ($)

    Higher numbers are worse; lower numbers are better.


Special District Population and Household Estimates


There is no single source for Special District population and household data, so we used a multi-step process to estimate these.

  • We performed Internet searches seeking population data from each Special District agency. In some cases (typically Special Districts serving large populations), population data were available for 2008-2013, providing a match to other data on Pension Tracker. In these cases, we reported these data.
  • In other cases, population data were available, but not for the 2008-2013 time period, and we estimated these population as follows:
    • First, we recorded the population data for the reported year.
    • Second, we established a county or city area surrogate for the Special District. We assumed that the Special District each year had identical characteristics to the surrogate. As a specific example, the Contra Costa Water District reported a service population of 500,000 in 2015. We assumed that the district, located in Contra Costa County, has experienced the same annual changes in population as in the county. We also assumed identical population-to-household ratios. With these assumptions, we estimated both population and household counts for Special Districts. A searchable list of 601 special district agencies, including population sources and area surrogates, is below. We were unable to estimate population for the remaining 360 special district agencies.

Pension Tracker

Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research
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Stanford, CA  94305-6050
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