There is a brand new list floating around from the Contra Costa Taxpayers Association highlighting the $100k pension club claiming its using June 1, 2012 data. At first glance, the list appears to be significantly damaging to CONFIRE, but upon further review, it’s grossly inaccurate and lacks any sort of explanation of how the numbers came about.
What this so called pension list from CoCo Tax is doing is using fire chiefs and administration as the prime examples to create an emotional reaction to attack firefighters as a whole. This is not right as its a dirty trick by using a select few to claim there is a big problem across the board when that is simply not the case. Due to size of the document, I guess they also did not want to put the position or year retired next to a name.
This is such a complex issue and problem that this simple list is misleading because you are taking different years retired, different agreements, different rules and combining it into one. You can’t logically tie it all into one list and it make sense. For example, this list does not include what each person contributed to their retirement which is likely a significant number.
When you look at the list and compare it to our guys who are now working, it does not take into account the pay reductions (10%) they just agreed to. It doesn’t take into consideration that they contribute 26% from each paycheck into their pension.
No one is disputing there is a pension problem with a select few who took advantage of the system. No one is disputing there is one today with a select few who will be retiring shortly, but it’s not an across the board problem like CoCO Tax is making it out to be all in the name of forcing pension reform. Just because there is a problem with older pension agreements that is effecting us today, does not mean those kinks have not been worked out and will reduce costs in the future with new hires, it will just take time to work the old ones out of the system by the time the new ones come onto the system.
If anything, this list is a perfect example about why pension reform will do little to fix today’s financial problem because the top guy (a chief) retired in 1993 and number two (also a chief) retired in 1998. The firefighter who just retired in February of 2012 is not even in the top 50–he is listed at number 54.
Obviously something has been done to correct what used to be a big problem, it just takes time to correct itself. Across the board, there have been negotiations, there has been solutions, and there has been fixes.
With that said, those who have retired need to be written off as a bad contract as opposed to attacking the average firefighter working today to protect the community. I can think of no greater analogy than a bad baseball contract such as Barry Zito. The San Francisco Giants are stuck with him until his contract expires—in the fire departments case, they come off the books when they die.
The problem this list has is it does not explain the back story on each individual on it or the agreement each of them had and their contributions to the system. They are just being bean counters. Who pension spiked? Who abused the system? It does not include the scenarios that played out over the last few decades. That information is missing and instead they take a broad approach.
When we talk about pension reform, we also need to remember the average firefighter is no longer working 30+ years on average. The average firefighter begins their career at age 27-28. If he was to work 30 years he would not be able to retire until he is 57–mostly likely a new fireman retires around 50 which gives him just 23 years and is not eligible for a full pension.
The point I am trying to make is anyone can create a list, but if there is no background of how the numbers or agreements were produced, what is the point? Anyone can combine multiple agreements, multiple decades into a single list, but that is misleading because a firefighter who retires in 1993 has a different agreement than Mr. Firefighter who just retired in February of this year.
I would encourage CoCo Tax to be a bit more honest with their lists they create for political purposes so an honest debate can occur. I would also ask them to stop making this an “across the board problem” and figure out just where their problem is and get down to specific than providing long misleading lists.
More to the point, Kris Hunt and Wendy Lack just attended a Fire Board meeting where three board members/supervisors told them why pension reform as a whole had not occurred and how State, Federal and IRS laws limit their ability even if they wanted to make changes–and this is even when the union agrees with the County!
Instead of trying to attack pensions as a whole, CoCo Tax would be better off working with the County, the firefighters Union and other stakeholders to find a solution that will allow a law change to ensure real change can occur. Instead of fighting, it’s time to work together so everyone can make the needed changes that ensures services will be available in the future as opposed to skeleton crews on scene of an emergency.
Here is a list of what a firefighter would get based off years of service.
- 1 year = 3 % of pay
- 2 years = 6 % of pay
- 3 years = 9 % of pay
- 4 years = 12 % of pay
- 5 years = 15 % of pay
- 6 years = 18 % of pay
- 7 years = 21 % of pay
- 8 years = 24 % of pay
- 9 years = 27 % of pay
- 10 years = 30 % of pay
- 11 years = 33 % of pay
- 12 years = 36 % of pay
- 13 years = 39 % of pay
- 14 years= 42 % of pay
- 15 years = 45 % of pay
- 16 years = 48 % of pay
- 17 years = 51 % of pay
- 18 years = 54 % of pay
- 20 years = 57 % of pay
- 21 years = 60 % of pay
- 22 years = 63 % of pay
- 23 years = 66 % of pay
- 24 years = 69 % of pay
- 25 years = 72 % of pay
- 26 years = 75 % of pay
- 27 years = 78 % of pay
- 28 years = 81 % of pay
- 29 years = 84 % of pay
- 30 years = 87 % of pay
- 31 years + = 90 % of pay
One could just look at the Brentwood Press where Rick Lemyre provided a fantastic example:
A fire captain earning $5,000 per month and hired at the age 28 (the average age at which public safety employees earning 3@50 are hired, according to a study by CalPERS, the state’s largest public employee retirement organization) and retiring at 50 would receive a pension of $3,300 per month, or $39,600 per year. The benefit also provides a maximum 3-percent annual cost-of-living adjustment (COLA).
By working until age 58, the same captain could retire after 30 years of employment, earning as much as 90 percent of his final year’s salary. According to CalPERS, about 34 percent of all public safety employees, including police and prison guards, reach 30 years of service. One percent reach 30 years of service by age 50.