TURLOCK — The Turlock Irrigation District on Tuesday became the latest agency to shore up a pension fund depleted by poor earnings.
Board members voted 3-0 — Rob Santos and Phillip Short were absent — to spend $3.4 million on the TID pension trust.
The shortfall occurred because a budget estimate in August 2008 didn't match the fund's actual earnings, reported in February.
"There's a timing difference between when we create our budget amounts for pension and when we get actuarial reports," said Joe Malaski, assistant general manager for financial services.
"Most of the time, there's not a big mismatch," he told the board Tuesday. "This time, it was more substantial." He attributed the drop to the poor financial markets in the past year.
"If you recall in 2008 it was probably one of the most abysmal earnings years for pensions," he said. "It's typically a short-term phenomenon. What pension plans earn can be erratic over time."
Many other agencies have experienced deep drops in their pension funds. In April, the Stanislaus County Employees Retirement Association board transferred $60 million in reserves to fund pensions and benefits.
Nobody spoke against the move at Tuesday's board meeting, but TID customer Dawna Rebeiro on Monday questioned the timing, because a rate hike just went into effect. Rebeiro works for her father's Trinkler Dairy Farms near Ceres.
"That's a lot of money," she said, adding that she doesn't begrudge TID employees their pensions. "But everybody else is having a hard time, too, and they're charging us more."
Malaski said the expense is necessary.
"Anytime you don't transfer funds, you have to establish a liability on TID's books," he said.
Bee staff writer Patty Guerra can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2343.