Comparisons are useful only if the jurisdictions have similar pension models and employee make-up. For example, CalPERS has historically amortized liabilities over 30 years and the Marin County Employees’ Retirement Association (MCERA) uses 17 years. This means that MCERA members, such as the City of San Rafael, are required to pay a greater percentage of its liability each year than a CalPERS agency with similar unfunded liability.
Size and make-up of workforce (e.g., safety versus non-safety employees) can also distort the data. Police and Fire employees (safety employees) generally have higher compensation structures, thus agencies with a greater percentage of safety employees have greater pension costs relative to agencies with lower percentage of safety employees. These and other issues need to be factored to get a true “apples to apples” comparison. Otherwise, the comparisons are misleading and can lead to inaccurate conclusions.