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Growing Number of Retired Santa Monica Educators Earn Six-Figure Annual Pensions


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March 20, 2018 -- More than 150 retirees from Santa Monica College and local public schools earned at least $100,000 each in pensions last year, according to recently released data from a public-spending watchdog group.

Ninety-eight of the 459 retirees from the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) earned $100,000 or more in annual pensions last year, with one retiree earning $200,236, according to data released by Transparent California earlier in the month.

Fifty-nine of SMC's 324 retirees earned at least $100,000 in pensions last year, nearly doubling the number that did so five years ago, the organization found. The top pension was $187,422.

The 97 percent hike earned SMC a spot on the organization’s list of 10 public entities in Los Angeles County with the biggest jumps in retirees taking home $100,000 or more in pensions each year.

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SMC’s big leap in such six-figure pensions was part of a pattern of
“dramatically” rising payouts to retired educators throughout metro Los Angeles, said Robert Fellner, executive director of Transparent California.

Its data is based on records from the California State Teachers Retirement System(CalSTRS)for 2017.

In all, 3,850 retired CalSTRS members countywide collected annual pensions of at least $100,000 last year -- an increase of 82 percent since 2012, the group found.

Statewide, the increase was 87 percent in pensioners earning at least $100,000, or 13,527 retired educators, Transparent California said.

Public employees in general have been under intensifying scrutiny in California, which is home to retirement systems with some of the largest payouts -- and hits to taxpayers -- in the country.

The City of Santa Monica is known for its high retirement pensions compared to other municipalities statewide ("Santa Monica City’s Pension Debt Ranked Among Highest in California," February 22, 2017).

California K-12 public school districts, as well as community colleges and universities, are bracing for an anticipated economic slowdown, which could collide with sharp increases in pension costs.

In Los Angeles County, the largest CalSTRS pensions went to a Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District retiree, with $320,592 annually; an Alhambra Unified School District retiree, with $300,110 annually, and a Pasadena Community College retiree, taking home $299,432 a year.

In California as elsewhere in the U.S., public employers contribute significantly to retirement for educators, although CalSTRS members contribute as well.

The biggest increases in education pensioners receiving $100,000 or more last year in local public education systems were at Los Angeles Unified School District, which increased to 1,370 retirees in 2017 for a 63 percent jump.

It was followed by the Los Angeles Community College District, which totaled 293 retirees in the $100,000-plus category, or a 97 percent increase, and Long Beach Unified School District, with 158 retirees in that bracket, an increase of 105 percent.

At the Office of the Los Angeles County Superintendent, 130 retirees received $100K or more, Transparent California said, for a 69 percent increase.

Also on the Top 10 were the Montebello Unified School District (a 154 percent increase in the $100K or more; the Alhambra Unified School District, with a 138 percent jump, and Pomona Unified School District, with a 70 percent jump since 2012.

Rounding out the list were Arcadia Unified School District, with a 100 percent jump; Mt. San Antonio Community College, with a 62 percent jump in the $100,000-plus pension category.

SMC comes in at 10th place on the list in terms of total retirees earning more than $100,000 from CalSTRS, with its 324 retirees receiving a total of $19.2 million.


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