Full-career Bay Area city retirees earn 40% more than residents’ average salary

For Immediate Release
Contact Robert Fellner, 559-462-0122, 201-206-6469 (cell)

Full-career retirees from the cities of Oakland, Fremont and Hayward received an average $83,464 CalPERS pension last year, nearly 40% higher than the annual wages of full-time workers in the same area, according to just-released 2014 pension payout data from TransparentCalifornia.com. Full-career police and fire retirees took home an average pension of $107,392.

The over 600,000 records — obtained through a series of public records requests to the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) ­— reveals that Bay Area agencies dominated the list of highest CalPERS pensions statewide, with former Solano County administrator Michael D Johnson’s $375,990 pension topping the list.

For miscellaneous retirees — which includes all non-safety employees — Bay Area agencies comprised five of the top 10 agencies with the highest average full-career pensions statewide, with Mountain View City and the Santa Clara Valley Water District placing 2nd and 3rd with averages of $111,884 and $103,296, respectively.

The cities of Milpitas, Union City, Vacaville and Walnut Creek all had average full-career pensions for safety retirees of over $119,000, placing them in the top 10 of CalPERS agencies statewide.

“Average full-career pensions that significantly exceed the wages of most full-time workers shatters the myth that CalPERS only provides a modest level of retirement income,” said Robert Fellner, research director for Transparent California.

Such exorbitant benefits are the reason pension contributions are skyrocketing, Fellner said.

“Retirement costs are directly related to the generosity of the benefits promised, and unfortunately, taxpayers are now being required to pay an equally exorbitant sum to help fund them.”

After Michael Johnson, the next 3 largest CalPERS payouts to Bay Area retirees went to:

  1. Kevin C Duggan, former Mountain View City manager: $265,823,
  2. David E Marshall, former correctional sergeant for the County of Santa Clara: $265,308, and
  3. Philip H Kamlarz, former Berkeley City manager: $256,514.

Average full-career CalPERS pensions for Bay Area employers

Fellner noted that the median contribution rate for the 10 largest Bay Area agencies — 25 percent for miscellaneous and 42 percent for safety employees — is significantly higher than the 6.3 percent that private employers pay for their employees’ retirement benefits, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics.

Fellner warned that, “As high as the current rates are, CalPERS is projecting significant rate hikes over the next few years, which threatens to break already cash-strapped municipalities. What’s worse, weakening market conditions means rates will rise even further than anticipated.”

Statewide

The 2014 report contained 19,728 recipients with a monthly allowance of $8,333.34 or more — representing an annualized benefit of at least $100,000 — a nearly 35% increase from 2012’s report.

The average pension for full-career miscellaneous and safety CalPERS retirees was $65,148 and $85,724, respectively.

The top three 2014 CalPERS pension payouts went to:

  1. Michael D Johnson, former Solano County administrator: $375,990,
  2. Joaquin Fuster, UCLA retiree: $325,278, and
  3. Donald Gerth, former Cal State at Sacramento president: $305,002.

The top 10 CalPERS agencies with the highest average pensions reveals retirement income that can more than double the earnings of full-time, working residents:

10 largest average full-career non-safety CalPERS pensions by employer

10 largest average full-career safety CalPERS pensions by employer

A full-career for miscellaneous retirees is defined as at least 35 years of service, the minimum required to qualify for Social Security benefits without penalty, while a full-career for safety employees is defined as 30 years or more.

Despite accounting for only 11 percent of service retirees, it is necessary to look at full-career pensions to accurately gauge the system, according to Fellner.

“Just as one assumes a 40-hour work week when comparing salaries, any discussion of pensions implicitly assumes a full-career.

“Furthermore, the disproportionally greater pensions for those who work a full-career reveal an inequity within CalPERS. Part of the generosity of the full-career benefits comes at the expense of partial-career retirees, who receive disproportionally smaller benefits.”

Fellner concluded, “With retirement costs expanding to as much as ten times what private employers are paying, maintaining the status quo is extremely irresponsible. It’s particularly indefensible to force taxpayers to bear the entire cost for the recklessness of union-backed officials who gambled on sky-high investment returns, lost, and now expect taxpayers to bail them out.”

To view the entire dataset in a searchable and downloadable format, visit TransparentCalifornia.com.

To schedule an interview with Transparent California, please contact Robert Fellner at 559-462-0122 or Robert@TransparentCalifornia.com.

 Transparent California is California’s largest and most comprehensive database of public sector compensation and is a project the Nevada Policy Research Institute, a nonpartisan, free-market think tank. Learn more at TransparentCalifornia.com.