Full-career retirees from Orange County municipalities received average annual retirements from the state pension system that were 54 percent greater than the average salary of still-working area residents in 2014, according to just-released data that finds the three largest payouts went to the former top administrators of the cities of Anaheim and Santa Ana and the Santa Margarita Water District.
Transparent California, a project the nonpartisan Nevada Policy Research Institute free-market think tank, also found while crunching the pension payout numbers that full-career police and fire retirees in Orange County took home nearly double the average salary of workers still on the job in the region.
The three largest California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS) payouts to Orange County retirees in 2014 went to: David N. Ream, former Santa Ana city manager ($277,194); John J. Schatz, former Santa Margarita Water District general manager ($270,613); and Thomas J. Wood, former Anaheim city manager ($248,914), Transparent California reports. (The top 2014 CalPERS pension payout–$375,990–went to Michael D. Johnson, former Solano County administrator.)
More than 600,000 records–obtained through a series of public records requests to CalPERS–reveal an average full-career pension of $81,372 for miscellaneous, which includes all non-safety retirees, and $99,366 for safety retirees of all Orange County cities enrolled in the system, according to the project.
The average pension for full-career miscellaneous and safety CalPERS retirees statewide was $65,148 and $85,724, respectively in 2014, Transparent California reveals.
The average annual salary in Orange County was $53,010 last year, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics.
“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,” says Robert Fellner, research director for Transparent California, in a statement that accompanies the date.
It's being left to the public to fund “skyrocketing,” “exorbitant benefits,” according to Fellner, who notes the median contribution rate for Orange County cities–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.
“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,” Fellner warns. “What's worse, weakening market conditions means rates will rise even further than anticipated.”
To view all the data, visit TransparentCalifornia.com.
OC Weekly Editor-in-Chief Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the alternative newsweekly’s first calendar editor.