2010-12-09 / Front Page

County braces for big PERS increase

BY JILL BALLINGER GAZETTE EDITOR

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And to Dave,, Law enforcement

And to Dave,, Law enforcement pays into social security the same as misc employees. I'll show you my paystub.

Please let me explain a

Please let me explain a couple of things about county employees and our retirement system. The county does pay the employee share right now. That was negotiated for. We could have negotiated a pay raise, but instead took a set percent 6% - 9% for the employee share of CalPERS contribution many years ago. The employee rate does not change. This is a very normal practice. The employer share is the variable amount that has gone up in recent years. It was much lower in the past because the market was doing so well CalPERS lowered the employer share so much they didn’t have to pay anything! CalPERS has changed they way they figure things so they will hopefully avoid these extremes in the future. The rate will not stay where it is, that is a reaction to the stock market crash. Their figures have a delayed reaction to the ups and downs of the market. Again, hopefully the changes they make will avoid these extremes in the future. As far as the deferred compensation goes, most county employees get little to nothing into deferred comp. Most use it to pay toward their medical coverage. I don’t know what everyone gets, but I guarantee we’re not talking much for the average county employee. As far as the social security goes, most public agencies do not participate in social security, this is also negotiated and paid half by employer and half employee. Our county does. It’s not a given one way or the other. I wouldn’t even say it’s a given that anyone is going to get the social security they expect. To the comparison on individual investment vs a CalPERS defined benefit; if you want a defined benefit, you can invest in an annuity with a set pay out. Investing in the stock market is a choice you made, you might have other type of investment options. They payout potential isn’t as great, but neither is the risk. To the comparison to teachers; I’m sorry, I’ve spent a lot years working weekends, graveyard shifts, missing Christmas mornings with my children, and of course no summer vacation. It’s not easy for a mom. I’ve had guns pulled on me, and have some permanent injury due to one of the fights I was in, not to mention the stress of dealing with the decomposing bodies and other things that most people don’t ever even think about. Our law enforcement officers are paid way-way below both the state and federal averages. I honestly don’t know how your pay compares. I know my husband that just retired from being a school-bus driver/mechanic, received much better medical insurance then I do. You can’t just pick out something and say look how much better they have it then we do. On of our biggest problems has always been recruiting quality individuals when the surrounding agencies have the same or better benefits and pay much more. Right now we’re doing much better because there are fewer agencies hiring due to the economy, but when it picks back up, we’ll be struggling again. Please support your local law enforcement and teachers. Please check out http://www.irle.berkeley.edu/cwed/wp/2010-03.pdf for information regarding a recent study done comparing wages and benefits of public sector verses private sector employees.

Yes, we know STRS is

Yes, we know STRS is statutory, but it does not change the fact that teachers received 35% less retirement pay than county employees, they pay their portion of "employee" contribution to STRS while county employees have their "employee" portion paid by the taxpayer, teachers receive no Social Security when they retire, and teachers have no generous deferred compensation plan. Just want to make sure the public is aware of these differences. Again, where else can one find public employees (county) retiring with (in many cases) three retirement sources (Social security, PERS and deferred compensation) that total to a far greater salary than they ever made as an employee.

And many teachers work six

And many teachers work six hours a day, get all summer off, get off weekends and holidays, have a spring break and two weeks off for Christmas. Yeah, sure there are some teachers who make an effort and put in more hours, but most do not.

Yet ignored in all of the

Yet ignored in all of the criticism is 1) negotiations w/ employee unions and how benefits have been used to offset salary increases; 2) conflation between misc employees who pay social security [out of their own pay] and safety employees who do not. Further, the reason teacher reitrement is diiferent is statutory--STRS (state teacher retirement) is older than PERS and has its own formula. As for Rob's "generous" company, up until the REagan revolution, defined benefit pensiosn were the norm b/4 companies decided that 401(k)s and IRAs were more "generous." But then, Reagan also worked to kill those evil unions that helped secure retirement benefits in the first place.

But it's alright to accept a

But it's alright to accept a bid for the airport for $10,000 a year instead of a $100,000 a year bid.

Adding to Rob's

Adding to Rob's commentary...can one imagine a private company paying a benefit package that would add another 50 to 70 percent in benefits on top of earned salary? Or how about a private company that paid for three retirements for their employees. Yes, Mariposa County pays for (1) both the employee and employer contributions to PERS, (2) the employer contribution to Social Security, (3) and for quite a number of employees, additional contributions to a 457 deferred compensation plan. County employees who work for at 25 years or more will retire with more monthly income than they ever made as an employee. I am going off topic here, but the poor teachers of our county are a totally separate entity from the county and are compensated quite differently. The teachers pay a portion of their retirement cost out of their own paychecks (unlike county employees where the county pays both employer and employee contributions). The teachers retirement plan allows far less in retirement than county employees, specifically , 35% less). Also the teachers do not have social security. Oh, and by the way, there is no contribution to deferred compensation plans for the teachers. Yeah, I know, life is not fair.

Our county employees are

Our county employees are certainly essential for provision of valuable services. On the surface it would appear that these folks earn salaries which may not be quite on a par with what employees of equivalent skill sets earn in private industry. However, this difference is more than compensated for by the County's significant contribution to their retirement fund. As a point of reference, I am fortunate enough to be employed by a company reputed to be more generous than the average in our industry. Yet, they match only up to the first 6% of what I contribute to my own retirement fund, allowing a maximum of up to 15% in pre-tax contributions. In other words, I can only put away a maximum of 21% toward my retirement of which 15% comes out of my own paycheck. Furthermore, unlike County employees, my "retirement fund" is subject to the whims of the market, i.e. lost 30% of it in 2008. I did not realize how much more generous we taxpayers are to our employees than private industry is to theirs.

Don't forget that the county

Don't forget that the county pays both employee and employer contributions to PERS which totals (for Miscellaneous) nearly 26%. Public Safety is the same only the percentages are much higher...about 41%. Of course, add 6.2% for taxpayer contributions toward Social Security, then add contributions to health and dental insurance. Does the taxpayer know that when one adds all of the benefits a county employee receives from the taxpayer, those benefits cost an additional 65 to 70% for public safety and over 50% for a Miscellaneous employee? Ten years ago, 30% was standard and considered generous. Twenty years ago, 20% was standard and considered generous. Does one see the trend?

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