CalPERS paid out over $20 billion in benefits last year as ‘100K club’ grows to nearly 23,000, new data shows

Update: Membership in the “$100k club” now stands at 62,474, click here for more.

Today, TransparentCalifornia.com — the state’s largest public pay and pension database — released 2016 pension data from the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS).

The data reveal that CalPERS made 646,843 individual payments totaling over $20 billion last year, with 22,826 retirees earning pensions of over $100,000 — a 63 percent increase since 2012.

The top 3 CalPERS pensions went to:

  1. Former Solano County administrator Michael Johnson: $390,485.
  2. Former Los Angeles County Sanitation District GM Stephen Maguin: $345,417.
  3. Former UCLA professor Joaquin Fuster: $345,180.

The average pension for a full-career CalPERS retiree was $66,400.

The below chart reflects the 25 employers with the most retirees collecting at least $100,000 in pension from CalPERS last year were:

Employer

$100K Pensions

Santa Clara County

861

Oakland

523

Riverside County

469

Long Beach

360

Santa Ana

270

Anaheim

269

Santa Clara

240

Torrance

222

Riverside

216

Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District

216

Santa Monica

191

Glendale

189

Sacramento

167

Berkeley

162

Metropolitan Water District Of Southern California

159

Stockton

157

Sunnyvale

156

Fremont

155

Burbank

154

Pasadena

149

Hayward

147

Richmond

141

Newport Beach

141

San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District

133

Alameda County Fire Department

126

With the recent addition of CalPERS data, TransparentCalifornia.com now has over 1.1 million pension records from 33 California public pension plans.

Statewide, at least 52,963 retirees collected pensions of at least $100,000 last year, according to the data.

The continual rise in pension costs demonstrates the importance of making this information public, according to Transparent California research director Robert Fellner.

“Californians will spend over $30 billion on pension costs in the coming year, a price tag which entitles them to full transparency regarding how that money is being spent.”

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.

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.

CalPERS $100k club for Highway Patrol up 15% as taxpayer cost hits an all-time high

The number of annualized pension payouts of $100,000 or more received by former California Highway Patrol (CHP) employees increased more than 15 percent last year, according to just-released 2015 pension data posted on TransparentCalifornia.com.

The over 625,000 records — obtained via a public records request to the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) ­— reveals that the average full-career CHP retiree collected an $88,773 pension.

Former assistant commissioner Ramona Murray De Prieto’s $201,727 annualized payout was the highest of any CHP retiree and marks the first time a CHP retiree collected an annual benefit worth over $200,000.

Meanwhile, the retirement costs for active CHP employees just hit an all-time high 50 percent of payroll.

Transparent California’s research director Robert Fellner believes soaring taxpayer-costs illustrate the importance of providing complete and accurate data.

“Defined benefit plans like CalPERS are inherently opaque, which limits the public’s ability to accurately assess its generosity and cost. Transparent California provides complete information so that taxpayers can have a better sense of how their money is being spent.”

Costs soar at the city of Chico

The City of Chico’s new 39% contribution rate for non-safety employees was the second highest statewide and represented a 25% year over year increase, also the second highest statewide. A list of all pension payouts to former Chico employees can be found here.

Fellner noted that Chico’s outsized costs for non-safety employees was likely due to the use of a rare, but extremely generous benefit formula known as “3% @ 60.”

Sacramento Valley

Top 3 payouts to Sacramento Valley retirees went to:

  1. Donald Gerth, former President of CSU at Sacramento: $317,324
  2. John Distasio, former CEO of Sacramento Municipal Utility District: $284,673
  3. Robert McDonell, former Woodland employee: $252,837

There was a more than 13 percent increase in the number of Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District retirees who received an annualized benefit of at least $100,000. The District currently sends 42 cents per dollar of pay to CalPERS, a more than 10 percent increase over last year’s rate.

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

A full-career is defined as at least 30 years of service.

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.

CalPERS $100k club up 11% in Orange County as Newport Beach experiences state’s largest rate hike

Today, TransparentCalifornia.com released previously-unseen 2015 pension payout data from the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS).

The over 625,000 records — obtained via a public records request — reveal that 1,495 Orange County retirees collected an annualized benefit worth at least $100,000, an 11% increase from last year’s report.

The Orange County cities with at least 20 full-career retirees that had the highest average full-career pensions for safety officers were:

  1. Costa Mesa: $122,870, which was the 12th highest statewide
  2. Irvine: $119,281, which was the 17th highest statewide
  3. Newport Beach: $116,326, which was the 23rd highest statewide

Soaring retirement costs

At 60.3 percent of pay, Newport Beach’s retirement costs for safety officers was the 2nd highest statewide — representing a 29 percent year over year increase, the largest statewide. The cost for Newport Beach’s non-safety employees increased 31 percent, also a statewide-high.

Costa Mesa followed closely behind with a 59.7 percent rate for fire officers and 55.6 percent for police officers, the 4th and 6th highest rates. Santa Ana’s 54.4 percent rate for safety officers was the 7th highest of any California city enrolled in CalPERS.

The top 3 payouts to Orange County CalPERS retirees went to:

  1. David N Ream, former Santa Ana city manager: $263,202
  2. James Ruth, former Anaheim city manager: $249,851
  3. Timothy Riley, former Newport Beach fire chief: $244,904

Ream’s benefit was the 17th largest regular benefit of any CalPERS member, excluding those with one-time only settlement amounts. When compared only to other retirees from California cities, Ream, Ruths and Riley’s payouts were 8th, 12th and 15th highest statewide.

Orange County Employees’ Retirement System (OCERS)

TransparentCalifornia.com also recently posted 2015 OCERS payout data.

The top 3 OCERS payouts went to:

  1. Gary Streed, Sanitation District: $263,545
  2. Lynn Hartline, Department of Education: $260,427
  3. Michael Schumacher, Orange County: $259,204

As taxpayer costs continue to climb it is more important than ever that the public has complete, accurate information as to how their money is being spent, according to Transparent California’s research director Robert Fellner.

“Defined benefit plans like CalPERS are inherently opaque, which limits the public’s ability to accurately assess its generosity and cost. Transparent California provides complete information so that taxpayers can have a better sense of how their money is being spent.”

A full-career is defined as at least 30 years of service.

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.

Retired Bell Police Chief’s $288,000 pension tops CalPERS list of Los Angeles-area city retirees

Today, TransparentCalifornia.com released previously-unseen 2015 pension payout data from the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS).

The over 625,000 records — obtained via a public records request — reveal that former Bell Police Chief Randy Adams $288,378 payout was the largest received by any CalPERS retiree from a Los Angeles city last year.

Former Los Angeles workers were also represented in the top 3 regular pensions paid to all CalPERS members statewide, excluding those who received a one-time settlement payout.

Top 3 CalPERS payouts statewide

  1. Michael Johnson, former Solano County administrator: $388,408
  2. Stephen Maguin, former Los Angeles County Sanitation District GM: $340,811
  3. Joaquin Fuster, former UCLA professor: $338,412

Retirement costs at LA-cities highest statewide

El Monte’s retirement costs for safety officers are now at 62 percent of pay, the highest rate statewide, with a 38 percent contribution rate for non-safety workers, the 4th highest statewide.

The highest contribution rate for non-safety workers was also found in Los Angeles County, with Santa Fe Springs now sending 47 cents per dollar of pay to CalPERS.

Inglewood experienced the largest year over year increase in retirement costs, with their safety and non-safety rate increasing 20 and 24 percent, respectively.

As taxpayer costs continue to climb it is more important than ever that the public has complete, accurate information as to how their money is being spent, according to Transparent California’s research director Robert Fellner.

“Defined benefit plans like CalPERS are inherently opaque, which limits the public’s ability to accurately assess its generosity and cost. Transparent California provides complete information so that taxpayers can have a better sense of how their money is being spent.”

Los Angeles cities with the highest pensions

The Los Angeles cities with at least 20 full-career retirees that had the highest average full-career pensions for safety retirees were:

  1. El Segundo: $131,973, which was the second highest statewide
  2. El Monte: $129,215, which was the third highest statewide
  3. Pasadena: $126,877, which was the sixth highest statewide

The Los Angeles cities with at least 20 full-career retirees that had the highest average full-career pensions for non-safety retirees were:

  1. Santa Fe Springs: $99,993, which was the third highest statewide
  2. Hawthorne: $92,376, which was the eighth highest statewide
  3. Downey: $88,708, which was eleventh highest statewide

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

A full-career is defined as at least 30 years of service.

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.

The Press-Enterprise: Tax increase and service cuts loom

A great editorial in today’s edition of The Press-Enterprise:

One long-term solution to this problem is simply to have fewer public employees who would receive a pension through CalPERS, and utilize public-private partnerships to deliver services. Given how lucrative pension benefits have been for many public employees, unions have been sure to stifle discussions of this sort.

According to Transparent California, full-career, non-safety public retirees in the Inland Empire receive average pensions of $73,712, while safety public retirees averaged $98,888. Reasonably, anyone who stands to receive such benefits would want such a status quo to continue, thus they remain the most active in local and state government.

But taxpayers simply cannot afford it without making even more sacrifices. Until Inland residents pressure their governments to look to alternatives, the trend of rising costs, fewer services and more taxes will persist.

Read the rest here.

LA Daily News Op-ed: What’s really driving CalPERS contribution rates higher

Our op-ed in the Los Angeles Daily News addresses the misleading tactic of citing raw averages as an indicator of a pension plan’s generosity:

If public pensions are so modest, as the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) likes to suggest, why are taxpayer contribution rates continually being raised?

CalPERS insists raw averages — like the $46,100 pension the average Los Angeles-area retiree receives — is the clearest way to convey their value.

Full context provides clarity: Raw averages represent partial-career retirees, like the average 22-year career of Los Angeles-area retirees.

To compare, if a private-sector worker went to Fidelity Investments to purchase an annuity for that level of income at the CalPERS’ average retirement age of 60, it would cost $1 million. How many taxpayers have saved a million dollars after just a 22-year career, if ever?

Read the rest here.