A California watchdog released 2016 pension data last week that found a 63% increase in the number of retired public workers in the state earning six-figure pensions since 2012.
Transparent California’s report notes that the California Public Employee Retirement System (CalPERS) paid out more than $20 billion to 646,843 pensioners. Of those retirees, 22,826 earned pensions more than $100,000 in 2016. The average pension for a full-career former CalPERS employee in 2016 was $66,400.
The largest CalPERS pension went to former Solano County administrator Michael Johnson at $390,485.
The most CalPERS pensions over $100,000 went to Santa Clara County, where 861 recipients collected their six-figure retirements. Trailing at second and third were Oakland and Riverside County, with 523 and 469 respective pensioners.
In 2016, there were 52,963 total statewide six-figure retirees from all pension systems. The largest California pension last year went to former Deputy Chief of Police Earl C. Paysinger, who received a payout of almost $1.5 million. Paysinger’s pension includes a one-time DROP payout of $1,338,232.
In regards to Transparent California’s information, CalPERS is still analyzing the data —with more information to be made available early this week.
According to the fund the overall statewide average pension of a CalPERS retiree is $33,528 —although 76% of retirees receive an average non-safety pension of $29,088. Only 3% of CalPERS service retirees overall receive pensions of $100,000 or more per year. They are usually executives who hold seats in either city or county offices, or are physicians, or senior managers for police and fire departments.
“Unlike the private sector, about 24% of CalPERS retirees don’t coordinate with Social Security for benefits and their CalPERS pension may be their sole source of retirement income,” Amy Morgan, Information Officer, Pensions and Retirement, CalPERS told CIO in an email. “Pensions are funded by both the employee who contribute every month out of their paycheck and the employer contributions, which are invested for fund growth over time. Some workers currently contribute up to 15.25 percent of their paycheck.”
Transparent California has more than 1.1 million pension records from 33 public California plans. According to the watchdog’s research director Robert Fellner, Californians will spend “over $30 billion on pension costs in the coming year.”