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Statement: “Take a peek at the Mayor’s 5 Year Outlook: For every $1 more the city will collect in tax revenues in next 5 years, 77 cents of it will immediately be diverted to the pension system,” City Councilman Carl DeMaio wrote on his Facebook page Feb. 9.

Determination: False

Analysis: We acted on DeMaio’s suggestion and took a peek at those numbers. As it turns out, he effectively overstated future pension system costs by tens of millions of dollars.

Rising costs in San Diego’s pension system have contributed to the city’s reoccurring budget woes. The city expects to contribute $229 million to employee pensions this year and about $20 million more each year until 2025.

With the city facing an estimated $56.7 million budget shortfall next year, DeMaio cited a new financial forecast from the Mayor’s Office to once again bolster his push for cutting the city’s pension costs.

DeMaio claimed that as the city gets more taxes in the next five years, 77 cents of each new dollar would go to the pension system. But that’s not what the mayor’s report said. It estimated that 56 cents of each new dollar would fund the pension. That’s still a lot, but DeMaio’s math mistake effectively overstates the pension costs by $23.5 million.

DeMaio made the error by confusing predictions about taxes and spending. Another city report said 77 percent of all additional spending would go to pensions in five years. DeMaio mistakenly said 77 percent of additional taxes would go to pensions.

The mayor forecasted getting $112.4 million more in taxes as the economy improves and spending $88.1 million more on the same daily operating costs, mainly because of rising pension payments.

When we asked DeMaio’s office to clarify the statement, it acknowledged his error — though it hasn’t updated the Facebook post.

“The councilmember misspoke,” DeMaio spokesman Jeff Powell wrote in an email. “The reference should have been to what the City will be spending in the next 5 years not tax revenues collected in the next 5 years.”

Since the statement doesn’t reflect the mayor’s predictions that DeMaio cited, we’ve called it False.

If you disagree with our determination or analysis, please express your thoughts in the comments section of this blog post. Explain your reasoning.

What claim should we Fact Check next? Please contact Keegan Kyle directly at keegan.kyle@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5668 and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/keegankyle.

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