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Almost Half of Santa Monica City Hall Retirees Receive Six-Figure Pensions, New Data Show
By Niki Cervantes
April 9, 2018 -- Almost two in four retirees at Santa Monica City Hall took home pensions of $100,000-plus last year, nearly triple the average for public employees through California, according to a new analysis by an organization that watches public spending statewide.
Of the $47 million the City of Santa Monica paid out last year to cover employee pensions, 42 percent was the result of annual payments of more than $100,000 to 219 retirees, the data from Transparent California said.
Santa Monica was topped only by Torrance and Redondo Beach, each of which saw 44 percent of their retirees receive $100,000 or more in 2017, the organization said.
Although the percentages of retirees in the so-called “$100K-club” varied widely, the statewide average of such former employees was 15 percent.
The report is based on newly released 2017 data from the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS), which represents pension and some benefits for more than 1.6 million California public employees, retirees and their families.
Santa Monica has long been criticized for high personnel costs, including pensions for retired employees ("Santa Monica City’s Pension Debt Ranked Among Highest in California," February 22, 2017).
Former City Manager Lamont Ewell (who retired in 2009) and former Police Chief James T. Butts (who retired in 2006) received $243,792 and $233,622, respectively.
Both also have worked for other cities and public agencies that contribute to the pension costs.
The CalPERS data showed an average pension of $80,175 for those who retired from a municipality in Los Angeles County -- higher than the $64,300 median household income countywide.
Ballooning pension costs are hitting local governments across California hard, particularly as many brace for an anticipated economic slowdown and are facing an estimated collective $390 billion in unfunded pensions.
In Santa Monica’s city government, costs for pensions are predicted to jump 23 percent within five years, playing a big role in the looming budget deficits also being forecast ("City of Santa Monica's Unfunded Pension Costs Jump 20 Percent," January 16, 2018).
The City’s unfunded pension liability is $461 million, which it is currently paying off over 30 years.
Also among the top 10 cities in L.A. County with the largest percentage of retirees receiving $100,000 or more yearly are Beverly Hills, with 41 percent (or 111 pensioners), Culver City, with 37 percent (or 86 pensioners), Burbank, 35 percent (181 pensioners) and Glendale, with 31 percent (212 pensioners).
Rounding out Transparent California’s list are Pasadena, with 30 percent (171 pensioners), Inglewood, with 29 percent (91 retirees) and Long Beach, with 21 percent (390 retirees).
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