SAN DIEGO (CNS) - The city of San Diego might be able to lower its $1.36 billion deficit for retiree health thanks to a judge's ruling that the benefit was optional and not vested, the City Attorney's Office announced Friday.
The ruling by San Diego Superior Court Judge Ronald Prager came in a lawsuit filed by two police officers who wanted to end an $8,880 annual limit on city contributions to ex-employees' health care. The court case tested a section of the City Charter that says changes to retirement benefits must be approved by a vote of employees.
Prager noted that the charter says the city "may" offer health benefits to retirees at its discretion, so it was not subject to employee approval.
But since it was a term and condition of employment, City Attorney Jan Goldsmith said San Diego officials are still obligated to bargain in good faith on retirement benefits.
"This decision brings an opportunity and a choice," Goldsmith said. "We can either continue litigating this issue for years through the appellate courts or we can resolve retiree health by coming together on a reasonable plan that will save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. This court ruling offers an opportunity to get results."
Goldsmith said the retiree health benefit amounts to about one-quarter of the unfunded pension liability, and affects employees hired before 2005. The benefit was eliminated for those hired after 2005.
Increasing pension payments have put a squeeze on the general fund, which pays for many city services.
The city faced a $56.7 million shortfall for the upcoming fiscal year, a gap Mayor Jerry Sanders opted to close, in part, by severely cutting hours at libraries and recreation centers.
A small plane crashed Saturday evening near the El Capitan Reservoir, the San Diego County Sheriff's Department confirmed.
Cal Fire is at the scene of a wildfire burning off State Route 94 near Church Road in the Campo Indian Reservation.
Backers of an initiative that would allow San Diego State University to buy the SDCCU Stadium site in Mission Valley for campus expansion are scheduled to begin seeking petition signatures Saturday.
Friends and relatives of a couple whose bodies were found in Joshua Tree National Park say they believe the two got lost while hiking in the sprawling desert park and struggled in the searing heat with little food or water before they died in a "sympathetic murder-suicide."
Sunshine and higher temperatures are making the return to San Diego County Saturday after intermittent drizzle across the region on Friday.
President Donald Trump is portraying the Islamic State group's ouster from its Syrian stronghold as a milestone in the U.S. fight against terrorism and a step toward a political transition and lasting peace in Syria.
The San Diego Police Department announced Saturday that officers will step up pedestrian safety enforcement operations.
The San Diego Gulls allowed power-play and shorthanded goals in the first period and an empty-net goal in the third in a 4-2 loss to the Stockton Heat Friday night at Stockton.
Authorities asked the public Friday for help in identifying and tracking down a pair of thieves who have carried out a two-week series of bank robberies this month in the San Diego area.