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Six in Rocklin’s $100,000 pension club

By: Jon Brines, Placer Herald Correspondent
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A total of six retired city of Rocklin employees are receiving more than $100,000 a year in California Public Employees Retirement System pensions. The list — from California Pension Reform’s online “CalPERS 100K Club” database — includes former city employee Stephen Newman, City Manager Carlos Urrutia, former Assistant City Manager Terry Richardson, Police Chief Mark Siemens and two former police lieutenants Stuart Davis and David Johnstone. The city identified four other employees who have retired since January 2008 who are eligible for a state pension who made more than $100,000, which include Senior Engineer Jee Choy, Police Lt. Michael Freeman, Chief Building Official Pete Guisasola and Fire Battalion Chief Charles Petitclerc. The city also identified 20 job classifications that currently have salaries over $100,000. The city currently has 245 employees, according to city documents. Last year, the city paid out more than $5 million for pension payments to the CalPERS, which manages the pension program for public workers statewide. This year, the city will pay about $51,481 more as a trade off for early retirees who were given a two-year pension service credit last year. They’ll be on the hook for that extra pension contribution to CalPERS for 19 more years. The city estimates the savings in salary amounts to about $1 million even though the city’s pension contributions will increase. That deal also allowed five managers to return to their old jobs on a part-time basis without benefits. They do however, collect the CalPERS pension along with the contracted part-time compensation, a practice that has been referred to as double dipping. Marcia Fritz, president of the California Foundation for Fiscal Responsibility who released the list from CalPERS, said pension reform is overdue. “The public outrage with pensions has really taken hold,” Fritz said. “You want to pay people fairly, but you don’t want to overpay them. Why should we be taxed to pay a pension that is more generous than it needs to be? There is no way to justify it.” The city has been forced to layoff dozens of employees, freeze vacant positions, outsource many services and initiate furlough Fridays among other initiatives to keep costs down during the recession. They’ve even reduced the number of jobs that pay over $100,000 by 23 percent since 2007. Mayor Scott Yuill, who supported the cost-saving measures, also wants pension reform and recognizes he needs cooperation with other stakeholders to go further. “People are right to be up in arms over the current state of public pensions,” Yuill said. “California needs pension reform, at all levels of government. Such reform involves a process; it cannot be done overnight, and it cannot be done by the city of Rocklin alone.”  Retirement formulas, which CalPERS uses, are defined by the legislature, Yuill said. Right now Rocklin law enforcement uses the 3 percent at 50 while the rest of the employees’s pensions are based on the 2 percent at 60. That means a worker can take 2 percent of their salary for every year they worked at age 60. Yuill said if the pension age was increased just a little, it would save millions. “Pensions currently received by now-retired city employees are ones established by agreements that were put in place years ago — subject to various legal provisions, some beyond the control of Rocklin or any city — and in some cases are a culmination of multi-jurisdictional service and pension contributions,” Yuill said. Beyond the pension, Rocklin retirees are eligible for lifetime medical and dental benefits. Yuill said the city addressed ballooning retirement health costs by establishing a $10 million fund to support that unfunded liability. The city recently negotiated with the workers unions to cap the city’s portion of workers medical premiums, which represented a huge unfunded liability now passed on to the workers. Fritz said the city should move new hires into 401K plans instead of pensions. Yuill said there isn’t an easy fix for a systemic problem. “I strongly support reform, but reality is that it will take time, negotiation, and cooperation by all parties to reach it, and much of the change can occur via future employment negotiations and agreements,” Yuill said.  Fritz said citizens need to demand accountability if they’re going to move reform forward on a local level. “I think people should scream bloody murder,” Fritz said. “Insist on transparency and make sure the city is doing everything it can to get compensation down.” The new city manager, who is expected to be hired later this year, will also be eligible for a pension. Annual pensions for six Rocklin retirees Police Lt. Stuart Davis $102,852 Police Lt. David Johnstone $104,183 City employee Stephen Newman $105,937 Assistant city manager Terry Richardson $152,895 Police chief Mark Siemens $158,101 City manager Carlos Urrutia $180,203 Source: CalPERS through the California Foundation for Fiscal Responsibility