SPECIAL REPORT: Five newspapers team on pensions

Public employee pensions are a hot topic, and our front-page story today adds some sobering numbers to the discussion.

Here’s one: $28 billion.

That’s the collective gap, according to a special McClatchy analysis, between the amount of pension money that’s invested and the amount that’s promised to employees and retirees in California’s 80 largest city and county governments.

The Tribune and McClatchy’s four other California newspapers teamed up on this project to provide a closer look at the problem statewide.

Phillip Reese, a Sacramento Bee investigative reporter, led the work in gathering and analyzing information from local governments.

Senior reporter Bob Cuddy contributed to the reporting, as did Brad Branan, Fresno Bee; Ken Carlson, Modesto Bee; and Danielle Gaines, Merced Sun-Star. Reese pulled data from the most recent available actuarial valuation reports for pension plans of most of the state’s 40 largest cities and 40 largest counties. In almost all cases, these reports covered fiscal years 2009 or 2008.

Cities and counties included in the analysis were selected based on U.S. census and CalPERS data about the size of their work force.