Brentwood officials deserve kudos for making cuts on the front end of the Great Recession starting nearly six years ago, allowing them to preserve most city staff and services.
The early trims avoided digging a hole that would have required more severe fiscal action later. As a result, the city has not lost police officers and has suffered minimal cuts in most other departments.
But no one should be declaring victory. That's because Brentwood is buried deep in debt for pension and retiree health programs. The city has well over $52 million of unfunded liabilities. That's equal to more than two years of city payroll.
The city treats the debt like a credit card balance, stretching repayment over decades. For the pension shortfall, it makes the minimum payment. For the retiree health program, it doesn't even do that, so the debt continues to increase.
Future taxpayers will be unfairly stuck paying it off by using money that should go for city services. But of the two mayoral candidates, only Councilman Steve Barr understood the ramifications. Mayor Bob Taylor clearly did not understand the implications of this huge debt.
Of the five City Council candidates, only incumbents Bob Brockman and Erick Stonebarger grasped it. None of the others came close. Stonebarger demonstrated the sort of detailed knowledge that we expect of all elected officials, but, sadly, rarely see.
This issue threatens Brentwood's long-term fiscal health. For that reason, we endorse Barr, Brockman and Stonebarger.