Reconsidering retirement

It’s time for City Council to look at public benefits packages

Chico Police Chief Mike Maloney has candidly admitted that a big reason for his pending early retirement is the fact that, when he turns 50, he’ll max out his retirement fund. We understand that he may be unusual—not everyone starts working for the police or fire department by age 20—but it seems counterintuitive to offer no incentives for those with loads of experience to continue working.

Chico’s city employees, like many throughout the state, get their retirement through the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS). There are two employee classifications—safety (police and fire) and miscellaneous (everyone else). Within those classifications there are five different benefit options with different accrual rates that start retirement at 50 or 55.

With the very best option, a police employee could reach the cap of 90 percent of his or her best salary at age 50 after 30 years of service, as Maloney will have done. With other options, that 90 percent isn’t reached until at least age 55. (Put in perspective, Maloney will be making around $142,000 after retirement. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median U.S. household income in 2010 was $49,445.)

We appreciate everything Maloney and the other members of Chico’s public-safety crews do for this city. But let’s face it: We’re living in hard times. The city, which has contributed to Maloney’s retirement fund these past 30-plus years, can’t afford to offer disincentives for experienced officers to stay in the department.

When contacted about CalPERS, City Manager Dave Burkland said the City Council had approved the benefits options “probably at least 10 years ago.” It’s time to take another look at those retirement plans and see if one of the middle-of-the-road options, which still offer ample benefits for retired employees, is a better fit.