All eyes may be on TriMet's
upcoming bond measure
and today's news that the feds gave the transit agency $6 million
to buy new buses.
But TriMet faces a bigger financial hurdle than getting voters to approve a new $125 million bond amid a recession. The agency's latest annual audit
[PDF] from the Moss Adams accounting firm brings the transit agency's growing health-care costs
and ongoing labor talks
into sharp relief.
Between January 2008 and January 2010, TriMet's "post-employment benefits" grew about 29 percent from $632.2 million to $816.5 million. The category of post-employment benefits in this instance does not include workers' pensions but does include health insurance for retirees.
To put that into perspective, accountants often compare that unfunded liability to current payroll. In 2008, the unfunded liability stood at 484 percent of payroll. By 2010, that had jumped to 592 percent of payroll.
The cost is the result of decades of accumulating obligations but it's been an area of focus only since 2008 when the Government Accounting Standards Board initiated new rules to make public agencies like TriMet measure deferred compensation for the first time.
Photo of protester outside City Hall the day TriMet raised its fare by a nickel.