Don’t wait for next bankruptcy wave

A new op-ed published in the Vallejo Times-Herald highlights the devastating effects that the public pension crisis can have on communities. A slice:

When public pension systems miss their investment target, taxpayers are required to make up the difference, and the actions described above represent some of the hard choices that are facing local governments. Soaring pension costs have already forced many agencies to cut core services. In 2011, for example, the city of Stockton announced it was going to lay off 116 police and fire employees, before eventually filing for bankruptcy the following year.

Making the problem worse, the weakening market comes at a time when many agencies are already paying record-high contribution levels.

Presently, Vallejo is paying CalPERS a staggering 60 cents per dollar of police and fire officers’ salary in retirement costs, which is projected to rise to 75 cents in the next five years — in large part to help fund average $125,000 pensions for recent, full-career retirees, according to data from TransparentCalifornia.com.

Experts across the ideological spectrum have sharply criticized U.S. public pension systems for utilizing a funding strategy that is heavily reliant on investment returns. Scholars from the Brookings Institute, the American Enterprise Institute, the Federal Reserve Bank, the Federal Reserve Board, the Congressional Budget Office and Moody’s Investors Service all agree that public pensions are using inappropriately high discount rates that promote excessive risk-taking. Nobel-laureate professor William F. Sharpe was particularly blunt, describing the use of a 7.5 percent rate as “crazy” and based on “idiotic accounting.”

Public pensions prefer higher investment targets because they make their debt appear smaller. The downside is that they must average annual investment returns at that rate in order to be fully funded — a gamble far too risky to fund a guaranteed pension.

Be sure to read the full piece here.

Vallejo’s 2015 CalPERS pension payouts can be found here.

Oakland police officer’s $490,000 pay package tops city list for 3rd year in a row​

Oakland police officer Malcolm Miller more than quadrupled his $107,627 salary to $489,662 with overtime, benefits and other specialty pays last year — making him Oakland’s highest paid employee for the third year in a row, according to just-released pay data.

Today, Transparent California released previously-unseen 2015 public employee compensation data for the city of Oakland on TransparentCalifornia.com, the state’s largest public sector compensation database. The site now contains 2015 salary data for 391 cities and 44 counties statewide.

Miller’s enduring status as Oakland’s top-paid city worker is mostly due to collecting massive amounts of overtime (OT) pay, as well as cashing in large sums of unused leave. Last year’s $192,108 OT payout suggests a nearly 90 hour average work-week, according to Transparent California’s research director Robert Fellner.

Using historical data from TransparentCalifornia.com, Fellner discovered that Miller, along with colleagues Eric Karsseboom and Huy Nguyen, have received OT payments suggesting average work-weeks of 80, 76 and 88 hours, respectively, over the past five years, as shown in the chart below:

Average hours worked per week for 3 Oakland police officers based on OT, 2011-2015

Fellner warned that, “The public should be concerned that working such an extraordinary amount of hours for years on end is a recipe for disaster, particularly given the life-or-death situations police officers routinely encounter.”

Surprisingly, Oakland’s top OT-earner was a non-safety worker: Oakland civil engineer Kenny Lau’s $257,097’s OT payout was the fourth-highest statewide, behind only 3 Los Angeles firefighters. Statewide, Lau was the only non-safety worker among the top 50 employees who received the largest OT payouts last year.

Milpitas fire inspector tops statewide list

A survey of 95 Bay Area cities — excluding the city/county of San Francisco — reveals that the average full-time, year-round city worker received $157,498 in total compensation last year.

The Bay Area’s highest-compensated city worker was Milpitas fire prevention inspector Don Yamashita, whose $541,557 compensation package was the richest of the more than 250,000 city workers surveyed statewide. After Yamashita, Malcolm Miller was the 2nd highest-compensated Bay Area city worker.

The next three highest-compensated Bay Area city workers were:

  1. Vallejo city manager Daniel Keen, whose $472,686 compensation package was the 2nd highest of any city manager statewide.
  2. San Jose police chief Larry Esquivel Jr., whose $470,288 compensation package was the 2nd highest of any police chief statewide.
  3. San Jose city manager Norberto Duenas, whose $457,387 was the 3rd highest of any city manager statewide.

The average full-time, year-round Milpitas employee received $187,597 in total compensation last year — second only to the City of Industry out of the 391 cities surveyed statewide.

After Milpitas, the next five cities with the highest average compensation packages for full-time, year-round employees were all from the Bay Area:

  1. Redwood City: $186,118
  2. Corte Madera: $183,750
  3. Atherton: $181,170
  4. San Jose: $180,723
  5. Santa Clara: $179,333

Total employee compensation for all 95 Bay Area cities surveyed increased 9.5% as compared to the previous year. The three Bay Area cities with a population of at least 10,000 that experienced the largest increases were San Ramon (25%), Newark (19%), and Vallejo (14%).

Fellner points to recent reports of residents fleeing the Bay Area as an example of the burden excessive public pay can have on taxpayers.

“Elected officials impose a tremendous burden on taxpayers when they cave to the demands of public unions for ever-higher levels of government pay. Now, many residents — who on average make much less than their government counterparts — are being forced from their homes due to the sky-high levels of taxes required to fund such exorbitant pay packages.”

Compensation is defined as total wages plus the employer cost of retirement and health benefits. Full-time, year-round employees are defined as those receiving a salary equal or greater to 90 percent of the “annual salary minimum” reported.

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

BART chief transportation officer’s $410,000 unused leave payout highest statewide

Today, Transparent California released 2014 public employee compensation data — complete with names, pay, and benefits — for 44 of the Bay Area’s largest special districts, representing nearly 90 percent of all Bay Area special district workers.

The data reveals that San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) chief transportation officer Rodolfo Crespo cashed in $410,945 worth of unused sick and vacation leave at retirement — the largest such payout statewide and more than double his $171,000 salary.

Transparent California’s research director Robert Fellner noted that Crespo also received a $155,248 CalPERS pension, increasing his total 2014 income to more than $565,000.

“Being able to collect over twice your salary in unused leave before immediately collecting a six-figure pension is like getting a golden parachute for your platinum one.”

Top Bay Area earners

Washington Hospital Healthcare System CEO Nancy Farber’s $1,068,348 compensation package was the largest of any Bay Area special district worker.

The next five highest-compensated Bay Area special district workers were:

  1. Washington Hospital Healthcare System chief of medical services Albert Brooks: $532,137
  2. Washington Hospital Healthcare System senior associate administrator Kimberly Hartz: $516,807
  3. Former Central Contra Costa Sanitation District director of operations Curtis Swanson cashed in $323,000 in unused leave to boost his total compensation to: $483,722
  4. San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District fire chief Paige Meyer: $469,650
  5. Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority general manager Nuria Fernandez: $449,450

The top five Bay Area special districts with the highest average compensation packages for full-time, year-round employees were:

  1. San Ramon Valley Fire Protection: $269,435 — highest statewide
  2. Rodeo-Hercules Fire Protection: $256,684
  3. Moraga-Orinda Fire Protection: $218,508
  4. Woodside Fire Protection: $213,148
  5. Central Contra Costa Sanitary District: $207,486

To view this information for all Bay Area special districts surveyed, click here.

BART employees top OT list

The three highest overtime (OT) payouts all went to BART employees:

  1. Police officer Youn Seraypheap’s $169,060 OT payout boosted his total compensation to: $359,187
  2. Senior police officer David Greene’s $165,743 OT payout boosted his total compensation to: $344,305
  3. Senior operations foreworker Andrew Williams’s $137,617 OT payout boosted his total compensation to: $267,640

Cost of benefits soar

The top three Bay Area special districts with the most expensive benefit packages for the average full-time, year-round employee were:

  1. San Ramon Valley Fire Protection: $114,863
  2. Central Contra Costa Sanitary District: $102,343
  3. East Contra Costa Fire Protection: $92,480

“Largely shrouded from public view, the cost for government workers’ benefits has ballooned to unsustainable heights, crippling local agencies and burdening taxpayers,” Fellner warned.

Statewide

Average compensation for full-time, year-round special district workers in other regions was:

  1. Bay Area: $155,488
  2. Marin County: $150,758
  3. Los Angeles County: $117,617
  4. Orange County: $120,332
  5. Sacramento Valley: $110,301
  6. San Diego: $120,111
  7. Statewide: $122,456

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

Compensation is defined as total wages plus the employer cost of retirement and health benefits. Full-time, year-round employees are defined as those receiving a salary equal or greater than the “annual salary minimum” reported.

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 of the Nevada Policy Research Institute, a nonpartisan, free-market think tank. Learn more at TransparentCalifornia.com.

75 percent of Bay Area city workers collected over $100,000 in total compensation

Today, Transparent California released 2014 public employee compensation data — complete with names, pay, and benefits — for 395 cities and 44 counties statewide on TransparentCalifornia.com, the state’s largest public sector compensation database.

A survey of 93 Bay Area cities, accounting for 96 percent of the Bay Area population, reveals the average full-time city worker received $101,675 in pay and $142,467 in total compensation last year — with 44 percent paid at least $100,000 and 75 percent having received at least $100,000 in total compensation.

Highest statewide

The top five cities with the highest average full-time compensation packages statewide were all from the Bay Area:

  1. Corte Madera: $181,945
  2. Mountain View: $169,078
  3. El Cerrito: $167,534
  4. Fremont: $166,183
  5. Milpitas: $164,757

San Jose’s $160,713 average compensation package was seventh highest statewide, $65,373 of which was for benefits — the most expensive benefits package of any city statewide.

The Bay Area also led the state in total cost of employee compensation per resident, spending an average $1,261 per resident. San Francisco’s $4,483 cost was the highest statewide.

To view a table listing the average wages for all Bay Area cities, click here.

The three highest compensated Bay Area employees were:

  1. Retired Richmond fire chief Michael Banks cashed in unused leave to boost his total compensation package to $561,278.
  2. Vallejo police lieutenant Herman Robinson took home $532,542.
  3. Retired San Francisco deputy police chief David Shinn cashed in unused leave to boost his total compensation package to $510,733.

Taxpayers have been kept in the dark about the full cost of public employees, according to Transparent California’s research director Robert Fellner.

“Government workers receive tens of thousands of dollars worth of benefits that have no comparison in the private sector. This bloat enriches special interests at the expense of both cities and taxpayers.

“Simply publicizing base salaries is inadequate given that city workers enjoy leave policies and benefit packages that dwarf what most taxpayers receive. Reporting full compensation reveals a shocking inequity between city employees and the taxpayers who must bear the cost.”

Oakland

The City of Oakland’s personnel expenses grew by 13 percent last year, the largest increase of any Bay Area city surveyed. Oakland police officer Malcolm Miller’s $463,553 compensation package was the highest of any Oakland employee, with over $280,000 coming from OT and “other pay.”

Alarmingly, overtime pay appears to be heavily consolidated within a select few employees at a rate suggesting average work weeks of 80 hours for at least the past three years.

Officers Eric Karsseboom, Malcom Miller and Huy Nguyen averaged overtime pay that was 41, 62 and 89 percent greater than their approximately $100,000 base salaries over the past three years, respectively.

Fellner warned that, “The public should be concerned that working an average of 80 hours a week for years on end is a recipe for disaster, particularly given the life-or-death situations police officers routinely encounter.”

Regional averages

Average full-time municipal employee compensation for other regions in California was:

regional

Compensation is defined as total wages plus the employer cost of retirement and health benefits. Full-time employees are defined as those receiving a salary equal or greater to the “annual salary minimum” reported.

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.

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.

Transparent California Release of 2014 K-12 Data, Bay Area

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

Data: No correlation between teacher compensation and performance

San Francisco Unified per-pupil spending highest statewide

TUSTIN — K-12 employee compensation data released today by Transparent California shows there is no meaningful correlation between teacher compensation and student performance; when the compensation of all district employees is compared to performance, there is a negative correlation.

A geographically-diverse survey of 75 of the largest school districts statewide – accounting for nearly half of total statewide enrollment – found average teacher compensation that ranged from $81,000 to $120,000, with no correlation to district performance:

The Academic Performance Index (API) ranges from a low of 200 to a high of 1000, with 800 being the targeted goal for all schools. The comparison relies on 2013 scores, the most recent data available.

The average full-time teacher compensation was $94,796 and the average API score was 795. Compensation is defined as wages plus the employer-cost of health and retirement benefits.

The average total employee cost per enrolled student was $6,946 and was negatively correlated against the district’s API scores.

Average teacher compensation at 10 of the largest Bay Area school districts was $89,343 and the average total employee cost per student was $7,166. San Francisco Unified’s employee cost per student of $9,146 was the highest amongst all schools surveyed.

Over 740,000 employee compensation records from 555 K-12 school districts – representing nearly 80 percent of total enrollment statewide – was obtained by and published on TransparentCalifornia.com, a public service website that provides accurate, comprehensive and easily searchable information on the compensation of public employees in California.

Statewide, the Chaffey Joint Union High School’s average compensation package for full-time teachers topped the list at $119,942, while receiving only a 777 API score in 2013. San Ramon Valley Unified earned a 923 API score in 2013, the highest of all schools surveyed, with average teacher compensation and total employee cost per student both below average at $88,638 and $6,763, respectively.

The top 3 highest earners statewide were:

  1. John Deasy, Emeritus Superintendent of Schools at Los Angeles Unified received $485,634 in compensation.
  2. John Collins, Superintendent at Poway Unified received $478,008 in compensation.
  3. Michael Hanson, Superintendent at Fresno Unified received $460,890 in compensation.

Bay Area

For the Bay Area, the average K-12 employee received a compensation package worth $87,295 with over 16,000 employees making more than $100,000.

The top 3 highest Bay Area earners were:

  1. Polly Bove, Superintendent at Fremont Union High received $363,736 in compensation.
  2. Elizabeth Mcmanus, Deputy Superintendent at San Mateo Union High received $349,292 in compensation.
  3. Bruce Harter, Superintendent of Schools at West Contra Costa Unified received $337,973 in compensation.

The average compensation for full-time teachers at 10 of the largest school districts in the Bay Area is displayed below:

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

“The lack of meaningful correlation between average teacher compensation and school performance, as measured by the district’s 2013 API score, is stunning” said Mark Bucher, president of the California Policy Center. “It does show, however, that simply increasing funding is not an effective way to improve performance.”

Bucher added that, “The doubling of employer contributions towards CalSTRS in the coming years will pose a significant challenge to schools already paying nearly $95,000 a year on average teacher compensation. The data also suggests that this increase in employee compensation is unlikely to improve educational outcomes.”

To schedule an interview with California Policy Center president Mark Bucher, 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 of two nonpartisan, free-market think tanks, the California Policy Center and Nevada Policy Research Institute. Learn more at TransparentCalifornia.com.

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Contra Costa County Schools Hit with Rate Increase to Fund Sanitary District’s $100k+ Pensions

Transparent California was featured in the Contra Costa Times and the OC Register today!

From the Contra Costa Times op-ed, Contra Costa Sanitary District pensions should cover rate increase:

Less than two years after hiking rates to help fund inflated pay packages, the Central Contra Costa Sanitary District is seeking another rate increase, which is expected to hit local schools the hardest. The proposal would increase charges on homeowners by 14.5 percent, and triple the approximately $50,000 fee local high schools currently pay.

When learning of the proposed hikes, Mt. Diablo Unified School District’s executive director of operations, Jeff McDaniel, needed to be “picked up off the floor” according to a report in this paper. County ratepayers may find themselves floored as well, upon realizing just where their money is going.

In 2014, the average pay and benefits package for a full-time, year-round Sanitary District employee was $207,486 — roughly half of which is the employer cost of funding their pension and Rolls-Royce-style health, dental and vision insurance plans that cost as much as $36,868 a year.

The OC Register ran a front-page story, Special pay pads pension checks, which relied heavily on data and analysis from Transparent California:

They’re the little extras tacked on to “pensionable pay” – from mainstays like chunks of unused leave time to such oddities as the “motorcycle bonus” and “confined space pay.”

Add them up, and some public workers in Orange County are boosting their “final average salaries” by some 20 percent, according to an analysis by Transparent California, the data arm of the conservative California Policy Center.