Business Services

  • Pension Tracker Report in the Marin Independent Journal


    In response to the Pension Tracker Report from this week’s Marin Independent Journal (IJ)article, below is our review and response.  As you may all be aware, the unfunded pension liability projections differ depending on the individual actuary, discount rate and the inclusion of recent changes to both pension benefits and contribution rates. 


    • Pension Tracker bases the calculation of the unfunded liability using a “market” assumption of a 3% rate of return. This inflates the actual liability as reported in our audited financial statements as required by GAAP.  The attached table shows the pension obligation required by GAAP and found in each district’s audited annual financial statements.
      • Pension Tracker asserts their discount rate more closely represents market realities and system liabilities.  Their rate is based on market returns calculated from 2011 through 2017.
      • CalSTRS previously used 7.5% and then reduced the discount rate 7% in 2018
        •  CalSTRS projects an increase in the unfunded liability through 2026 followed by a leveling off and full funding in 2046
          • A February 2019 CalPension Report included the following information about the CalSTRS discount rate:
            • “CalSTRS investments are expected to earn 7 percent. Debt or ‘unfunded liability’ is created when annual earnings fall below 7 percent or, as CalSTRS did two years ago, the earnings forecast is lowered (from 7.5 percent) and life expectancy increased (2 to 3 years).”
        • CalSTRS projects an increase in the unfunded liability through 2026 followed by a leveling off and full funding in 2046
      • CalPERS previously projected 7.5% and reduced the overall discount rate to 7% in 2018
        • A November 2018 Report states the CalPERS actual valuations through June 2018 were 8.6%, however the liability for schools is based on a long term discount rate of 7.375% for the schools pool (CalPERS maintains several separate employer pools).   
    • The Public Employers Pension Reform Act made significant changes to the structure of retirement benefits.  These structural changes will significantly impact pension debt over time.
    • The 2019-20 State Budget Act included $3.15 billion allocated to reducing pension debt.
    • It appears the Pension Tracker analysis may have included other pension and post-employment benefits information not related to pensions, however we have not been able to verify this.


    Pension Tracker’s methodologies and data sources, including the data used for calculating the number of Households is available on the Pension Tracker website.



    Additional opinions on public pension obligations can be found at the following links:


    We hope this helps to provide you with information you need to respond to questions.



    Property Tax Increase at Annual 2018-19


    The unusual increase in property tax receipts we saw in closing 2018-19 is entirely due to a timing difference relating to the remapping of value for the Corte Madera Village/Nordstrom properties for the five years from 2014/15 through 2018/19.  The remap resulted in $131 million in value being added to the roll creating tax bills on 5/31/2019 that will be refunded in 2019/20.


    Changes made to the roll after equalization are applied across the county and as a result $2.3 million was allocated to school districts in 2018-19. The attached spreadsheetshows the difference between P2 and Annual for secured taxes and taxes in total with the dollar change as well as percentage change for both 2017-18 and 2018-19. The 2018-19 tab also shows the property tax receipts associated with the remapping, the remaining difference and what that remaining difference is as a percentage increase over P2 – which is very comparable to the 0.5% or so increase we usually see at Annual.


    We were originally advised that the refunds that will be made in 2019-20 had been incorporated into the latest estimates for 2019-20, however, we have since been notified that the estimates do not include this impact. We will be providing updated estimates for 2019-20 in the near future.


    Many thanks to Sandy Kacharos, the Property Tax Division Chief from the County of Marin and her team for providing the information on the variance so rapidly and with the specific detail relevant to each district.  We hope this information is helpful as you prepare the materials to accompany your unaudited actuals.



    Marin Municipal Water District (MMWD) Progression Update

    In March 2019, the Marin Municipal Water District (MMWD) notified customers of a potential rate hike of 4% annually for four (4) years along with a Capital Maintenance Fee (CMF), which was projected to have a significant impact on school districts. Representatives from the Marin County Office of Education (MCOE), San Rafael City Schools and the MMWD began meeting regularly to discuss concerns and possible solutions. As a result of those meetings,  the final rate increase remained substantially the same as the proposed, but with some additional assistance to school districts (and other public entities). Specifically, the MMWD has established a mechanism to allow districts to defer payment of the CMF for up to four (4) years with a favorable repayment plan over five (5) years. In addition, the MMWD committed to working directly with districts (that are customers) to allocate and monitor water usage, address leaks, install monitoring technology, and determine whether each district has the appropriate number and size of meters to address water needs.


    Most recently, the MMWD presented its plan to work directly with districts at the August DBO meeting. Using San Rafael City Schools as its model, the MMWD shared work already done to help identify ways in which San Rafael City Schools can save both money and water. While the plan will take time to implement, there are steps districts can take in the immediate future to allocate their water allotments to their best advantage, saving an estimated $10,000/year.  The next meeting with MMWD will be scheduled for mid-September.




    Commuter Benefits - Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART) Train and Emergency Ride Home


    The Marin County Office of Education (MCOE) is pleased to announce that the agreement for the SMART train Eco-Pass discounted pricing has been extended for the 2019-20 school year. The train will run from the Sonoma County Airport to downtown San Rafael - with multiple stops in between.


    School employees can purchase Eco-Passes for unlimited rides all month for only $155 per month using pre-tax dollars!


    Information on the Commuter Benefits program can be found on the MCOE Personnel website under Commuter Benefits located at


    Should an employee emergency arise, Transportation Authority of Marin (TAM) Emergency Ride Home (ERH) Program provides a reimbursable ride home in cases of emergency for employees who use alternative transportation, such as carpooling, vanpooling, public transit, SMART train, bicycling, and walking.  All Marin businesses are eligible to participate in this free program.


    Need a ride from the train station?  On demand shuttle rides in select San Rafael areas are available through Marin Transit Connect.  For information go to


    Questions can be directed to Kate Lane at




    2019-20 Adopted Budget Review

    Business office staff are in the process of reviewing the district's 2019-20 adopted budgets.  We expect to provide draft review letters to districts on or about September 11th, with final letters issued by the statutory deadline of September 16. As always, we appreciate as quick a response as possible to ensure we meet the statutory deadline for the final letters.




    FCMAT Projection Pro Software Training  | Friday, September 20, 2019 | 8:30am to 3:30pm | Marin County Office of Education


    FCMAT is providing a workshop on Projection Pro, their new, free online multiyear projection software service.  The training workshop will be held at MCOE on Friday, September 20, 2019 from 8:30am to 3:30pm.   Please see the flyer for details


     To register for the training session being held at MCOE, go to