Retirees collect $100K in pensions despite crisis


Kris Hunt is with the Contra Costa Taxpayer's Association. She's worried about the growing number of public employee retirees collecting $100,000 or more.

"We are trading services to pay for these pensions and it's going to continue," she said.

According to the County Retirement Board in 2009, 432 public retirees were collecting $100,000 or more. In 2010, the number jumped to 535 -- up 24 percent.

Supervisor John Gioia says the county's share of pension costs has skyrocketed because it must make up millions lost by the pension fund in the stock market.

Pensions in Contra Costa are administered by a local board, not CalPERS.

"Currently we spend about $220 million a year in pension costs and that's expected to grow to $260 million to $270 million," Gioia said.

The top pension earners include retired San Ramon Valley Fire Chief Craig Bowen who made $291,000, followed by retired county counsel Silvano Marchesi who made $270,000.

Rollie Katz is chief of public employees Union Local 1. The median pension for Local 1 members is about $2,100 per month.

"This notion that because there are some people making over $100,000 in pension that the average employee has a big fat pension is just not accurate," he said.

Of the top 10 on the list of public retirees in Contra Costa County, five are former chiefs or deputy chiefs in the San Ramon Valley Fire District.

Current chief Richard Price told ABC7 the district board took several steps to insure future retirees won't be able to "spike" final year salaries with excessive overtime, car allowances and selling back vacation time.

"They enacted a number of reforms to really prevent numbers that size from happening in the future," he said.

In the meantime, there's nothing legally that can be done about those already at the top of the list.

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