Entries by Robert Fellner

Caltrans Union Spokesman Understates Engineers' Cost by $71M

In a hearing on Senator Moorlach’s SBX1-9 (Responsible Contacting for Caltrans) bill, Ted Toppin of the Professional Engineers in California Government (PECG) made a series of demonstrably false claims regarding the cost of Caltrans engineers. Toppin claimed that the cost of a fully-loaded engineer – including all wages, benefits and even the cost of their office and service truck – […]

CalPERS Spends $50 Million on Investment Advisors, Underperforms Market by 67%

The California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) spent nearly $50M on their investment advisors in 2014, despite producing a dismal 2.4% investment return – 67% lower than what the market returned over the same time, as measured by the S&P 500. CalPERS’ 275 investment officers and portfolio managers cost taxpayers $49.27 million, with chief investment […]

University of California Hikes Tuition to Fund Soaring Pensions of up to $350,000 a Year

The University of California (UC) is implementing major changes to their retirement system to address its $12.1 billion unfunded liability, which has been cited as the driving factor behind recent tuition hikes. The proposed changes include a cap on pension benefits and the possibility of offering a 401(k) defined contribution plan to new hires. Looking […]

Over 8,000 LA County Retirees Made at Least $100K in Pension Pay as Taxpayer Cost Soars

Last year, 8,088 retirees in the Los Angeles County Employees’ Retirement Association (LACERA) received yearly pension and medical benefits packages worth at least $100,000, a more than 11% increase from the previous year, according to Transparent California’s recently published 2014 pension data. At the same time, the employer’s annual required contribution – the cost borne by taxpayers […]

San Diego Police Losing Officers To Lucrative Retirements, Not Other Departments

Editor’s Note:  The following article addresses an ongoing debate:  Are local police departments in California where pension reforms have been enacted, San Diego and San Jose in particular, losing officers and new hires faster than they can replace them because of these reforms? Readers of this article are encouraged to also read the response posted […]

Average CalPERS Pension Up To 5 Times Greater Than Comparable Social Security Payouts

CalPERS officials are fond of saying that their average pension benefit is only about $31,500 – suggesting that CalPERS members’ benefits are at Social Security-type levels. On this basis, they argue it’s a “myth” that public pension benefits are excessive. But is that really true? What happens when something like Social Security’s benefit assumptions – […]

San Francisco Transit Workers Average $123K Per Year – Reject 11% Raise

For unionized government workers receiving an average $123,000 per year, a more than 11 percent pay raise wasn’t enough. While taxpayers are seeing their own income stagnant, government workers will receive double digit raises, further increasing the burden on many taxpayers who are making considerably less. Last year, San Francisco municipal transit workers received an […]

Pasadena Unified Superintendent Promoted, $55,000 Raise, Despite District’s Failing Performance

Pasadena Unified School District (PUSD) superintendent Jon Gundry has just been tapped as the new superintendent for the Santa Clara County Office of Education (SCCOE), despite PUSD’s failing marks under his tenure from 2011 to 2014. His base salary will rise from $240,000 to $295,000 with the promotion effective August 1. In 2013, the PUSD […]

Fire District Board Passes Tax Increase to Sustain $263,000 Median Annual Compensation

The Rodeo-Hercules Fire District board just announced that a new tax increase, known as a benefit assessment, has passed, amidst criticism deriding the measure as unlawful. The District has a long history of budgetary woes, coupled with lavish $263k median compensation packages, amidst a union-backed board known for its aggressive tactics to fight any efforts […]

Fire Chief of 17 person District takes home $395K; District seeks property tax increase

The Rodeo-Hercules Fire District is located roughly 30 minutes north of San Francisco. The District provides fire protection and emergency services to the City of Hercules and the Rodeo area and had 17 full-time employees on staff in 2013. The District serves approximately 33,000 people over roughly 23 square miles. Recently, the District held a […]

Comparing compensation information on Transparent California and State Controller’s site

Two is usually better than one, and that’s certainly true when it comes to databases of government employee compensation. In the case of California, there are two main searchable statewide databases. Those sites are TransparentCalifornia.com, which provides information on government payrolls and pensions, and the State Controller’s Office (SCO) Government Compensation website. The main advantage […]

Why Frequently Cited Average Pension Numbers Are Misleadingly Low

Public pension systems in California, most notably CalPERS and CalSTRS, are quick to cite their average pension amount as evidence that their pension benefits are reasonable. In addition to the pension plans themselves, many defenders of public pension plans will cite these averages themselves when attempting to counter claims that pension benefits have become excessive […]

Evaluating Public Safety Pensions in California

Summary: To accurately assess how much pension obligations for current workers are going to cost, it is necessary to calculate average pensions for retirees who retired after 1999 when pension benefits were enhanced. Because public safety employees represent about 15% of California’s total state and local government workforce [1], but an estimated 25% of the […]

Three Ways California Governments Try To Avoid Transparency

Few politicians or government officials publicly oppose transparency in government. After all, transparency isn’t just about information; it’s a tangible acknowledgment that government officials work for citizens, not the other way around. Still, there’s a big difference between mouthing support for transparency and actually fulfilling public records requests as required by California’s Public Records Act. TransparentCalifornia.com, […]

How Much Do CalSTRS Retirees Really Make?

Summary:  The California State Teacher’s Retirement System (CalSTRS) is California’s 2nd largest public employee pension fund, serving roughly 2% of California’s population. At present, its unfunded liability is officially estimated at $71 billion. While much of the discussion over pension reform focuses on projected rates of investment returns, which greatly affects the required annual contributions […]

California bureaucrats: avoiding transparency or wastefully incompetent?

When making requests for information from government agencies, being both an environmentalist and an advocate for government transparency can be doubly painful. It is quite common for public agencies to stall or attempt to deny public records requests, but some methods are just too bizarre to believe. Two separate California school districts – Duarte Unified […]