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Supplemental COLA: Protect Our Benefits Decision

Published: June 19, 2015

On June 17, 2015, the California State Supreme Court denied review of the Court of Appeal decision in Protect Our Benefits (POB) v. City of San Francisco (State Supreme Court Case No. S226262, 1st DCA Case No. A140095).  The POB case challenged a provision in Proposition C, adopted in November 2011, that changed the criteria for SFERS to grant a supplemental COLA.  Before Proposition C, a supplemental COLA was granted whenever the SFERS’ fund performance exceeded its expected earnings and there were sufficient earnings in excess of the expected earnings to fund the supplemental COLA.  Once Proposition C was enacted, supplemental COLAs were granted if the fund’s performance exceeded its expected earnings and SFERS was fully funded based on the market value of assets.

The Court of Appeal ruled that the changes to the supplemental COLA adopted under Proposition C could not be applied to current City and County employees and those who retired after November 1996 when the supplemental COLA provisions were originally adopted.  It held that the new supplemental COLA provisions could be applied to SFERS members who retired before November 1996.  The decision would trigger retroactive supplemental COLA payments effective July 1, 2013 and July 1, 2014 to SFERS members who retired after November 1996.

The case will now return to the Superior Court and a final decision will be issued.  Once SFERS receives and reviews the final decision, SFERS staff will process and pay the retroactive COLA payments to eligible retirees as soon as reasonably practicable.