Study good, action better on pensions – Orange County Register

As the cost of law enforcement continues to rise, Orange County cities that contract with the Sheriff’s Department are looking to save money. Mission Viejo Mayor Pro Tem Ed Sachs even raised the possibility of forming a joint powers authority for law enforcement. It’s a road that cities out in Riverside County have been down before.

Nine cities commissioned a study, released this year, evaluating the feasibility of a JPA. Among the findings: A JPA can be a cost-effective alternative to the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, but with several caveats. In order for the JPA to work, it would require as many cities to participate as possible, especially the larger cities.

Now, a number of cities in Orange County are looking at alternatives, and they might have the numbers to actually make something work. On Tuesday, Mission Viejo voted to join with 12 other cities to split the cost of a $300,000 study to “find ways to reduce costs for sheriff’s contracts that have continued to rise — in some cases by nearly 25 percent over the past few years,” the Register reported.

But, while it is commendable that cities are interested in finding ways to make the taxpayer’s dollar go further, if governments are good at anything, it is “studying” an issue. Taking action is where they often come up short, and some of the cities were quick to note that joining the study doesn’t commit them to anything. And that’s the problem.

Because there was another important caveat in that Riverside County JPA study: Large cost savings would come from offering a defined-contribution retirement plan.

Higher salaries, benefits and pensions have driven up the cost of services. And the problems will only get worse, thanks to a 2016 agreement granting across-the-board 8.8 percent raises to deputies over the next three years.

Whether deputies are deserving of the raises isn’t the point, if pensions are unsustainable. Higher salaries now mean higher pensions later —…

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