SLO County’s six-figure pension club

December 3, 2014
Warren Baker

Warren Baker

By JOSH FRIEDMAN

The number of retired public employees in San Luis Obispo County who are receiving yearly pensions of more than $100,000 continues to grow along with the more $500 million in unfunded pension liability.

The highest earning pensioner in the county is former Cal Poly president Warren Baker, who received a $250,687 pension in 2013. Baker’s pension is the 20-highest in all of CalPERS, the state’s primary pension system, according to the California Policy Center database.

Cal Poly, as a whole, had 26 retirees with pensions greater than $100,000 in 2013.

San Luis Obispo County had 53 six-figure pensioners in 2013. Of that group, 10 receive annual retirement pay in excess of $150,000 a year.

Former county treasurer-tax collector, Frank Freitas, who retired in the middle of his term in 2012, currently has the highest pension among all retirees in the county’s independent retirement system. Freitas received $192,649 in 2013.

Freitas is trailed in the county pension system by former sheriff Pat Hedges and retired county administrator Jim Grant. Hedges collected a $189,751 pension in 2013, while Grant received $176,459.

The city of San Luis Obispo leads the seven cities in the county in $100,000 pensioners. Last year, 24 San Luis Obispo retirees received six-figure pensions.

Former city manager Ken Hampian collected a city-high pension of $162,873, followed by retired finance director Bill Statler, who received $150,234. An additional 14 city retirees received pensions between $90,000 and $100,000 in 2013.

As with retirees from other public agencies, San Luis Obispo pensioners receive annual cost of living adjustments. The city’s six-figure pension club is currently growing on a yearly basis.

The other six cities in San Luis Obispo County have considerably fewer retirees with pensions greater than $100,000. Paso Robles has three members of the six-figure pension club, Arroyo Grande and Morro Bay each have two, and Atascadero and Pismo Beach both have one.

Paso Robles’s highest pensioner is former police chief Dennis Cassidy, who received $135,219 in 2013. Former fire chief Michael Hubert leads Arroyo Grande pensioners, having received $134,601 in retirement pay last year.

Morro Bay’s former police chief John De Rohan collected $135,275 in 2013, while Atascadero’s retired top cop received $116,896. Pismo Beach’s highest pensioner, former police chief Joe Cortez, earned $114,069 in retirement pay.
Grover Beach is the only city in the county without a $100,000 pensioner.

Most community services districts in the county have no pensioners near the $100,000 mark. Cambria Community Services District, however, has three members in the six-figure pension club, and a fourth retiree will likely join the group this year.

Former Cambria general manager Vernon Hamilton led Cambria pensioners with $116,029 in retirement pay last year.

A second state agency has some of San Luis Obispo County’s highest earning retirees. In 2013, 15 retirees from Atascadero State Hospital (ASH) received pensions greater than $100,000.

One retired staff psychiatrist, Roger Wunderlich, received $199,669 in retirement pay last year. Four other retirees from ASH also received pensions greater than $150,000 last year. Those four also worked as psychiatrists at the state hospital.

Funding employees’ retirements has become increasingly problematic for many public agencies statewide, including some in the county.

The San Luis Obispo County’s pension system has amassed $346 million in unfunded liabilities, an issue recently reported on by the San Luis Obispo County Grand Jury. Unfunded liabilities in the county’s plan increased by $25.2 million in 2012 alone, and the 2014 grand jury report states concern that they will grow substantially over the next decade.

The grand jury also criticized the county for lack of transparency in its reporting on pension debt. County taxpayers pay about $8.7 million annually to service the retirement plan debt, according to a 2013 report compiled by the actuarial firm Gabriel, Roeder Smith, and Company.

As with the county, the city of San Luis Obispo has suffered a rapid increase in its unfunded liabilities. San Luis Obispo has more than $115 million in unfunded pension liabilities, despite not having any in 2001.

In fiscal year 2001-2002, the city had more investment money in its CalPERS plan than obligations to current and future retirees. The city, then, was making no payments to CalPERS.

But, by 2010-2011, San Luis Obispo accumulated more than $100 million in unfunded liabilities, and its minimum annual CalPERS payment increased to approximately $8 million. By 2020-2021, the city is expected to owe CalPERS more than $14 million annually.

The San Luis Obispo City Council is expected to continue discussions on paying down it pension debt at a meeting in December, a recent city memorandum indicated.


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womanwhohasbeenthere

The SLO Property & Business Owners Assn. recently had a CalPERS actuary at their meeting who detailed the entire pension mess for the city of SLO. It is closer to $132 MILLION owed by this city of 45,000 people. Yet we have $90 MILLION in the bank and just passed a sales tax increase. But every public employee will expect (and likely get) a raise this year. It’s hard to say with a straight face that the budget is balanced when we are so overwhelmingly indebt. Other cities are also in similar straits.


SLO has the ability to change pensions under Measure A. It’s about time the council UNITE on this and act now to cap pensions and pay down the debt. It is crippling our city and will only get worse. If they voted together no one could expect reprisals from his supporters. It’s just got to be done and sooner rather than later.


If employees don’t like it, they can join us folks in the private sector who don’t have the days off, automatic raises, defined benefit pension plans,nearly- free health care, job security etc. they currently enjoy. I guarantee there will be a line around the block of job seekers who would love to have their positions.


OnTheOtherHand

Wouldn’t it be nice if they started with those earning $150K+ salaries as top administrators? It would be a lot easier to convince others to support such measures if they did.


slomike

Who knew forty years ago that public pensions would turn out to be a good deal? You took the job for security and benefits. Other folks took public sector jobs, usually at a higher salary. Then we all worked for forty years and let the chips fall. Unless you struck it rich in the public sector or saved in IRAs etc., you backed the wrong horse. Some feel we are jealous of CEOs with huge incomes, so we want to tax them. But, he came that money through his talent, he earned! So did public workers.


OnTheOtherHand

SOME of the rich CEOs came to their huge incomes through talent but not all — unless you consider cronyism, and political manipulation as a type of talent. Much as I despise Facebook, Zuckerberg earned the profits he made with it. When you get to people like the Walton heirs who inherited their wealth and then expanded it through legislative favors and encouraging their low-paid employees to seek government benefits, its a bit different. I am not jealous of their wealth but it is undeserved and I would like to see the tiny fraction of it that I paid indirectly returned to me as a matter of principal. I would even accept using it to pay down the national debt and forgo my few bucks worth.


ml1999

Is there a public website where we can look up the CA pensions?


There are websites that do list yearly salaries and bonuses of public employees and UC employees. Thanks.


unlisted

No, just a private one. It only has retirees who receive over $100K.


Enjoy – http://www.fixpensionsfirst.com/100k-pension-club


achillesheal

Frank Freitas pulling in the highest pension – shows the value to government of the tax collector!


HarryMalone

How in the hell can SLO County have a $30 million SURPLUS and yet SLO County’s pension system has $346 million in UNFUNDED pension liabilities?


NorCoMod

Easy…just keep pension deficits and pension bond obligations off the books.

Governments have to do that so the rest of us don’t become upset.

Don’t try that with your business however, your banker will call you on it.


willnose

“….but wait, there’s more! For those of you who don’t know, or care not to know, or acknowledge the facts – business people routinely pocket paychecks, golden-parachutes, and bonuses in the 100’s of MILLIONS! (Crickets chirping……chirping……chirping…)

Now THAT is outrageous, merit a post – consider it done!


Mariposa

At the expense of taxpayers? Different story. Another song. Private sector.


slomike

Yes at the expense of taxpayers. http://www.forbes.com/sites/clareoconnor/2014/04/15/report-walmart-workers-cost-taxpayers-6-2-billion-in-public-assistance/ Walmart Workers Cost Taxpayers $6.2 Billion In Public Assistance. Not to mention an underwritten transportation, security, and everything else system our government has provided.


OnTheOtherHand

Are stockholders taxpayers? No, they don’t directly rip off taxpayers but they do rip off stockholders, employees and customers. slomike shows how the Walmart execs and major stockholders rip off the government indirectly through their employees. They also use cronyism to set each others salaries in a way not much different than government administrators do which reduces benefits to shareholders when it reaches exhorbitant levels. Add in the special treatment that they can get via tax laws passed by their puppets in congress and, yeah, we all pay for it one way or another.


hijinks

While it’s fair that public employees retire with a decent pension, anything over $100,000 is indecent, and there should be a cap that prevents these sorts of retirement ripoffs. In SLO city, the pensions were vastly inflated in the early 2000s by recommendation of Hampian and Statler, who then promptly retired under the beefed up pension schedule they’d induced the city to create. That’s just corrupt. Hampian was a major backer of Measures Y and G, and manipulated things behind the scenes in the recent election, and now thinks he can dictate who ought to be appointed to the “oversight” committee (his man: Mike Multari, another big city pensioner — see yesterdays’ council agenda online for Hampian’s letter to the council on this) to make sure G gets spent the “right” way. It’s really hard to remember that most pensioners aren’t ripping off the system when you have greedy nut cases like this leading the way and giving public pensions a really bad image. The Cal Poly big pensioners are also disgusting — almost all are administrators who contribute zero to the university’s mission of educating students.


mb_BeachBum

How nice it is reading this after hearing that the County Board of Supervisors just gave away $2.4 million to our employees. Funny how all this comes out and happens AFTER the election…


aft50s

OCSD will have a member of the 6 figure club when Paavo blows town next year.


jonhartz

I want his job when he leaves…


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