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The consultant that figures out how much the retirement board should bill the city every year appeared before the City Council this morning to defend this year’s quote of $162 million.

That figure, which was unveiled at a retirement board meeting in March, represents actuary Gene Kalwarski’s estimate about how much the city should pay in the upcoming fiscal year in order to make progress in paying down the current $1.4 billion deficit.

“This number is defensible,” he said.

A number of pension hawks have criticized Kalwarski’s estimate for the next fiscal year, which begins in July, saying it is too small. Critics say the estimate artificially downplays the city’s obligations, doesn’t pay off the interest that the deficit accumulated this year, and passes off too much of the obligation to the future.

Kalwarski shrugged off the concerns. He admitted that the assumptions and methods that were in place when he was hired this year are imperfect, but said that they should stay in place until the board decides to change them.

He said he has never advised any of the retirement trusts he has worked with to change assumptions until they are studied by the board “unless there is something compelling that, if we hadn’t changed them, results in the serious funding deterioration down the road.”

The meeting included an animated confrontation between City Attorney Mike Aguirre and Councilwoman Toni Atkins. Additionally; questions surrounding a proposition that voters passed in order to more quickly rid the city of its deficit; the introduction of yet another pension consultant; and more diagnosis of the pension system’s number crunching.

Check back tonight for more.

EVAN McLAUGHLIN

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