SLO city retirees receive average pension of $90,000 a year

May 2, 2019


As California grapples with soaring unfunded pension liabilities, which are wreaking havoc on local government budgets, the city of San Luis Obispo has a rapidly expanding six-figure pension club, and its retirees are now receiving average retirement pay of approximately $90,000 a year. [Cal Coast Times]

Pension costs are continuing to rise throughout the county, though SLO leads the pack with the highest average pension and the most retirees collecting pensions. Thus, the total amount of payments made to SLO retirees, which has surpassed $20 million a year, far exceeds that of the other cities.

Full-career retirees from SLO received an average pension of $89,705 in 2018, with the top earner now collecting more than $175,000 annually in retirement pay. About 50 retired workers now receive six-figure pensions, according to Transparent California.

At $79,529, Paso Robles retirees had the second highest average pension followed by Pismo Beach at $76,927. The average pensions for Morro Bay, Atascadero, Grover Beach and Arroyo Grande were respectively $74,227, $72,039, $69,573 and $69,010.

In 2018, a total of 412 retirees received pensions from SLO. Next in line, Paso Robles had a total of 137 retirees receiving pensions. At the other end, Grover Beach had just 43 pensioners.

Last year, the total amount of payments made to SLO retirees was about $21.5 million.

San Luis Obispo, like all other cities in the county, is part of the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS) and must make payments to the state agency to fund, in part, its pension plans.

SLO’s annual payments to CalPERS have increased to more than $10 million in recent years and are expected to exceed $20 million in the coming decade.

Pension costs are thus eating up a sizable percentage of the city budget, which currently totals $153 million. By comparison, SLO’s annual budget for paving roads in city neighborhoods is $7.6 million, or about half of what the city pays to CalPERS.

As is the case with other cities, San Luis Obispo is grappling with a decision made by the CalPERS board in late 2016 to lower its investment return forecasts. The decision forced agencies to increase their yearly contributions to CalPERS and resulted in SLO incurring a multi-million dollar budget shortfall.

Whereas the pensions of SLO retirees totaled $21.5 million, payments to retirees in Paso Robles, which cost the second most among SLO County cities, totaled only $6.1 million. Grover Beach retirees received the least, totaling just $1.5 million.

SLO’s highest earning pensioner is former city manager Ken Hampian. In 2018, Hampian received a pension of $175,366. Former city finance director Bill Statler received the second highest pension in 2018, $161,758.

Other notable SLO pensioners include current San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Ian Parkinson. Last year, Parkinson received a pension of $128,752 from the city of SLO in addition to the pay he received from the county.

Likewise, now-Arroyo Grande Councilman Keith Storton collected a $151,367 pension from SLO. Both Parkinson and Storton reached the rank of SLO police captain before retiring from the San Luis Obispo force.

Even some former SLO council members collect pensions from the city. Former councilman John Ashbaugh received a pension last year of $7,179, more than some sitting city council members in SLO County collect in salary and benefits. Former mayor Jan Marx received a pension of $5,424 in 2018.

Former mayor Dave Romero, who had a long career with the city prior to getting elected mayor, received a pension of $101,076.

As of last year, every other city in the county has at least one member of the six-figure pension club. The three top pensioners from cities other than SLO are John De Rohan, the former Morro Bay police chief; Michael Hubert, the former Arroyo Grande fire chief; and Dennis Cassidy, the former Paso Robles police chief. De Rohan, Hubert and Cassidy respectively received pensions of $146,158, $145,430 and $144,784 in 2018.

Frank Freitas

Unlike the seven cities, San Luis Obispo County is not a member of CalPERS. Instead, it has its own boutique pension plan, which is self-funded by the county and its employees.

Leading in pension earnings, former treasurer-tax collector Frank Freitas collected $206,003 in retirement pay in 2016, the latest year for which county pensions figures are available on Transparent California.

One of the driving factors in the ballooning of public sector pensions is the increasingly high salaries that government workers receive. Cal Coast Times will soon report on the pay that local public officials are collecting.

Pension stats by city (2018)

San Luis Obispo:

412 pensioners

47 six-figure pensioners

Top pensioner: Ken Hampian – $175,366

Total cost of pensions in 2018: $21.5 million*

$89,705 average pension**

Paso Robles

137 pensioners

12 six-figure pensioners

Top pensioner: Dennis Cassidy – $144,784

Total cost of pensions in 2018: $6.1 million*

$79,529 average pension**

Pismo Beach

82 pensioners

5 six-figure pensioners

Top pensioner: Jeffrey Norton – $134,364

Total cost of pensions in 2018: $3 million*

$76,927 average pension**

Morro Bay

123 pensioners

7 six-figure pensioners

Top pensioner: John De Rohan – $146,158

Total cost of pensions in 2018: $4.5 million*

$74,227 average pension**


90 pensioners

3 six-figure pensioners

Top pensioner: Kurt Stone – $126,064

Total cost of pensions in 2018: $3.5 million*

$72,039 average pension**

Grover Beach

43 pensioners

1 six-figure pensioners

Top pensioner: Jim Copsey – $110,549

Total cost of pensions in 2018: $1.5 million*

$69,573 average pension**

Arroyo Grande

103 pensioners

6 six-figure pensioners

Top pensioner: Michael Hubert – $145,430

Total cost of pensions in 2018: $4.2 million*

$69,010 average pension**

SLO County pension stats (2016)

2,681 pensioners

77 six-figure pensioners

Top pensioner: Frank Freitas – $206,003

Total cost of pensions in 2018: $79.6 million*

$88,091 average pension**

* Total cost is the combined amount of all pensions received by retirees in the single year, not the amount the agency spent on retirement benefits or paid to CalPERS.

** Average pensions are for full-career retirees.

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It surprises me that someone can get a pension that exceeds the annual salary they received while working. I seriously doubt that Freitas was ever paid $206,000 during any year that he worked for the county but now his pension is $206,000 annually. Interesting!

I take it this is why they can’t pave South Higuera

Give them everything they ask for, and more.

You know, cry me a river, to those who didn’t make the right decision 40 years ago. When Ronald Reagan and his pro-business, conservative acolytes took the White House and basically outlawed the formation of Unions, it was quite clear in California that you either profited with your private sector business or you went to government for work.

After all, Reagan exploded the U.S. budget by creating government jobs—look it up—at the highest rate in the country’s history, especially defense related jobs. I chose to keep my business and it paid off along with some prudent investments. But many others went to local government and I couldn’t blame them. While they didn’t get rich, they have good pensions that provide for a high quality of life in their senior years. For every commissioner or planner who brings down six figures, there are 10-15 lower level staff who claim 50-60k a year pensions.

Sorry that the libertarian ilk on this board chose to stay poor.

Actually it was Grey Davis who sold California out when he gave the bank away to the prison guards and consequently the police anf fire called foul and got their share too.

I remember what my dad told me: when he got back from the war, he had a choice of working for civil service for less money and a pension, or make considerably more money working in private industry. I’m sure at one time all government salaries were reasonable. The problem is that corrupt people making the rules decided that we need to pay higher salaries in order to attract the best people, which of course sounds reasonable. The problem is they only applied this notion to the administrators; no one ever increased the salaries of the people actually doing the work in order to obtain the best and brightest. Please realize the corruption is only at the top. For everyone of these insane pensions you read about, there are a bunch of grunts out there who made a reasonable salary and are now drawing a modest pension. This is best demonstrated by our biggest local business: Cal Poly. They gotta pay the administrators the going rate in order to attract top talent, but at the same time, they use many different approaches to keep instructor salaries as low as possible.

Easiest problem ever to solve: never, for any reason, pay anyone a 6-figured pension. These people make enough money to pad their own retirement accounts.

The way the system works is that they determine what their pay raises will be. Top management for the most part are the negotiators. Simply put do they want to stand their ground and do what is right or given in to their fellow workers and then be the good guys? Most elected officials are not involved in negotiations and just go along with the recommendations. Pay raises need to be put before the taxpayers for approval or disapproval.

I know 2 retirees from UC Davis that earn $355,000.00 a year in retirement .One was in administration the other an instructor

What a scam

One common refrain by pension acolytes is that “these pensions stimulate the local economy.” Aside from this assertion being the typical “Broken Window Fallacy,” it’s not true that pensions are spent in the local economy. A study of WHO is receiving the city pensions would find that most recipients — especially the highest pensioners (police and firefighters) — seldom LIVE in the city in which they worked. In all but the biggest cities, at least 90% of the city’s firefighters live elsewhere.

Moreover, when CA public employees retire, many such high government pensioners move out of the state, taking their incomes with them — avoiding paying the high CA taxes that they so favored while working as “public servants.”

I’m glad to see another person reads Bastiat! Indeed, just because money is stolen from non-government workers and given to retired government workers does not mean the local economy is stimulated at all! Even if all the pension money was spent at local restaurants, local national chain hardware stores, local mechanics and local grocery stores, with zero shopping at Amazon……this in no way implies that pensions stimulate the local economy!

Why? Because we do not know what would have happened to the local economy had everyone been able to keep their tax dollars, the money they spent on fines, licenses, regulations, permits, fees, bonds, etc. If all that money had stayed with the local workers who were forced to cough it up for pensions it may very well have “stimulated” the local economy better than giving it all to a literal handful of people.

The bad news is that we’ll have to pay more and more in order to keep our retired city workers happy. This means people on “fixed incomes”—by which I mean small incomes—will have to pay more money in order to pay for the “fixed incomes” of the pensioners….plus COLAs.

The good news is that sooner or later the entire pension system is going the way of PanAm airlines and when it burns down we’ll no longer be forced to pay.

In the meantime, the best advice anyone can give is to move away from here…..

Ah, yes, the society where everyone avoids taxes, fines, licenses, regulations, permits, fees, bonds, etc. And where would that be? Maybe Somalia, Iraq after the American invasion for a short time before the corruption and murder forced a conventional government. Please, give me an example of a place where this mythical no-tax, no nothing system has flourished? I dare you.

There is absolutely zero evidence that a libertarian society fashioned by the feverish brains of Bastiat or Hayek or Mises could ever be workable in the real world.

At some point people will revolt against oppressive taxes by operating in the underground economy as much as possible, consequences be damned. Tax cheating was (and probably still is) rampant in Greece as it slid into bankruptcy.

This is why I believe government officials who look at legalized pot as a tax cornucopia are off their rockers. Why would people who’ve operated outside the law for decades suddenly go legit and surrender a cut of their profits to government?

What happens if things get so bad that this house of cards implodes and people no longer accept worthless fiat dollars and demand hard assets for payments?

You say it can’t happen? Trump just put the screws–rightly or wrongly–to nations buying Iranian oil. All the more reason to transact in currencies (or assets) other than US dollars vis-à-vis their trading partners.

When the dollar loses its status as the world’s favored currency the fix is in.

Come on RK, you’re spouting nonsense. Greece, like the U.S.??? Please! U.S. dollar not dominant??? Please!

Get a clue.

…then they vote for the same statist leftist policies and politicians in their new state that they fled in the old one! New Yorkers have ruined North Carolina and Florida while California has exported leftism all over the Western US.

What is so hard to understand about this. NY City, Calif etc are the highest cost of living, highest pension, highest taxes on the upper income people.

Oh, by the way, they are also Democratic strongholds.

The bottom line is that these democratic run states/city are paying off public employees with extreme pension/benefits etc so they will be reelected. END OF STORY-NO MYSTERY HERE

^ This is why public sector unions should be outlawed.

The fire chief of Atascadero gets $126,064 a year for retirement. This is for being the chief of an 18 man department. On top of that he received close to $100,000 when he retired for the manipulated accrued vacation and sick leave time that added up over the years. It’s a very nice program when you are the boss and no one questions your whereabouts while the time just adds up. I don’t know what type of wake up call people will have to get in order to fix this. It will either be bankruptcy for the city or bankruptcy for those on a fixed income who will be taxed until they are dried up/