More than 30 Newport Beach city retirees receive pensions worth $100,000 a year or more, according to the California Foundation for Fiscal Responsibility.
The watchdog group has created an online database of government pension recipients, drawing on public information obtained from the California Public Employees Retirement System.
Most of the retirees on the list of top government pensions holders are former Newport Beach police officers and fire fighters.
Former Police Chief Bob McDonell tops the list of 36 city retirees with an annual pension of $100,000 or more. McDonell’s annual pension is worth $221,554.56, according to the database. That works out to $18,462.88 a month.
Former Fire Chief Tim Riley is second on the list, with an annual pension worth $214,600.56, or $17,883.38 a month.
Another retired fire chief, Ronald Sutherland, is third on the list, with an annual pension of $157,238.88 or $13,103.24 a month.
Councilman Don Webb also is on the list. Webb worked for the city for 33 years, retiring in 2001 as the city’s public works director.
Webb comes in at No. 17 on this list, with an annual pension valued at $121,936.32 or $10,161.36 a month.
Pointing out that public employees don’t collect social security, Webb said he believed longtime city employees have earned their pensions.
“If a public employee works for 30 or 40 years, their pensions should reflect the longevity that they have,” Webb said.
But he also acknowledged that skyrocketing pension costs will mean Newport will have to look at asking its employees to shoulder more of the burden.
“In the current economic times, we have to look at all the various options and see if the time is appropriate for more of a public employee contribution,” Webb said.
What the city pays into CalPERs yearly has steadily increased over the past few years.
Newport’s employee contributions to CalPERS for the city’s public safety employees alone have increased from about $9.8 million in the 2007 fiscal year to about $11.5 million in the 2009 fiscal year, according to the city’s administrative services department.
In total, the city’s payments to CalPERS have jumped from about $16.2 million to $18.4 million over the past three years.
Two years from now, the city will see an additional $6-million spike in what it pays into CalPERs, because the troubled financial markets of 2008 wreaked havoc on the public retirement system.
The spike will extend into what the city pays into the system for the next 30 years.
City Manager Dave Kiff and the City Council have expressed interest in having city employees pick up more of the slack when it comes to paying into the state employee retirement system.
Newport is negotiating new labor contracts with the city’s two police unions, and hopes to get the unions to agree to shouldering more of the burden for the city’s pension costs.
Most other city employees pay about 3.4% of their payroll into the retirement system, Kiff said.
The city hopes to reduce what it pays in pension costs, as well as keep potential hires from going to other cities with more attractive employer contribution rates, Kiff said.
“We don’t want to put at competitive disadvantage, it’s a tough balance,” Kiff said.
By The Numbers
List of Newport Beach annual pensions that exceed $100,000:
Bob McDonell, police chief: $221,554.56
Timothy Riley, fire chief: $221,554.56
Ronald Sutherland, fire chief: $157,238.88
Thomas Arnold, assistant fire chief: $156,093.72
Michael Hyams, police captain: $153,914.64
Timothy Riley, police captain: $153,198.84
Craig Chastain, fire chief: $148,200.72
Paul Henisey, police captain: $147,834.48
John Desmond, police captain: $143,020.92
Dennis Lockard, fire marshal: $137,031.72
— Source: The California Foundation for Fiscal Responsibility