California could fall over two years behind in its financial reporting by fall 2021, according to California Policy Center senior fellow Edward Ring.
The latest Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) on the California state controller's website, which was released in October 2020, is for fiscal year 2019, which ended on June 30, 2019.
Ring claims that the nearly year-and-a-half delay for the state to publish a report of its financial performance makes "any in-depth detailed financial information about the State of California well over a year out of date."
"By the time the fall of 2021 rolls around, even if it’s a normal year, information about the financial performance of state agencies will be well over two years out of date," he writes.
According to the state controller's publication schedule, 2020 compensation data will be released for city and county workers in June 2021, state department, state university and superior court workers in July 2021, special district workers in August 2021, University of California and community college district workers in September 2021, First 5 Commission and fair and expo workers in October 2021, and K-12 education workers in November 2021.
A public pay database is available on the agency's website showing a record for every full or part-time state or local public employee for 2019, including base pay, overtime pay, “other” pay, deferred pay, health insurance, pension fund contributions, and more.
The database has been used by the California Policy Center to produce a series of summary reports in 2020, analyzing the average pay and benefits for various classes of full-time public employees in 2019, including city workers, county workers, and state workers.
However, Ring explains that it is not a perfect system, noting that "pension fund contributions may or may not include the payments to reduce the unfunded liability," the difference between the total value of their invested assets and the total "actuarial liability", which is the present value of the pensions the system will eventually pay to their current and retired employees.
He also notes the data "doesn’t include the cost of pre-funding retirement health insurance benefits, or include any attempt to put a value on the unusually generous paid vacation, personal, and “9/80” (salaried professionals that work 9 hours a day for 9 days, then take every 10th day off with pay) benefits afforded California’s public servants."
In addition, the data provides an incomplete picture on COVID-19's impact on public employees in K-12 education. While nearly all California cities and all counties reported compensation information on the database for 2019, just 503 K-12 school employers in California have reported 2019 compensation information compared to 1,416 who have not reported.
Ring also noted that there is a six-month delay between fiscal 2019 reporting from CalPERs, the state's public employee pension system, and the release of their Comprehensive Annual Financial report in Nov. 2020.
"Hundreds of billions of dollars are in play," Ring warns. "By the time the Fall of 2021 rolls around, and we’re all trying to figure out just how far in the hole the COVID-19 pandemic has put our public employee pension systems, we will still be relying on calculations that were updated over two years earlier, before any of these economic storms were even on the radar."
Representatives for the state controller's office and CalPERS did not immediately return FOX Business' request for comment.