Seal Beach has not yet implemented a police pension plan that would reportedly save the city money. The issue came up during the Thursday, April 7 budget workshop. Staff members believe an actuarial study is required before the city can amend its contract with Seal Beach Police officers.
Last year, the Seal Beach Police Officers Association and the Police Management Association agreed to a two-tier police pension system. Under the agreement, newly hired officers would get “2 percent at age 50” when they retired.
However, the officer most recently hired by the police department is expected to have his pension calculated on the old “3 percent at 50” formula. The SBPD hired its newest officer on Feb. 23, 2011, according to the Seal Beach City Clerk’s Office.
The information was provided in response to a California Public Records Act request filed by citizen activist Robert Goldberg of Seal Beach’s Bridgeport neighborhood.
As reported in the Oct. 21, 2010 issue of the Sun, the “2 percent at 50” formula would mean a police officer would receive 60 percent of his salary on retirement. Under the old formula of “3 percent at 50,” an officer could get 90 percent of his salary on retirement.
However, the city has not implemented the second tier of the two-tier retirement formula.
Councilwoman Ellery Deaton asked Acting City Manager Jill Ingram about the 2 percent at 50 plan.
Ingram said that the council adopted the police memorandum of understanding with the two-tier pension system on Nov. 8, 2010.
Ingram said the contract did not define “final compensation” and “survival benefits” for retirement purposes.
However, Goldberg told the Sun this was a moot point. “The retirement provision of the police contract does makes reference to the city’s CalPERS contract which very specifically defines ‘final compensation’ for all city employees, and survival benefits for police specifically,” Goldberg said.
Ingram told the council on April 7 that the California Public Employee Retirement System requested an actuarial study before the city implemented the contract amendment process required to implement the 2 percent at 50 police pension formula.
However, Jennifer Curtis, human resources manager for the city of Santa Clarita, told the Sun that CalPERS did not require an actuarial study when her city adopted a “2 percent at 60” pension formula for civilian employees.
“I don’t know how that is,” Curtis said.
She said that as she understood CalPERS rules, an actuarial study was not required because Santa Clarita was not increasing its costs. Curtis said she did not know if there was a difference between the way CalPERS treats police and non-police employees.
According to a CalPERS “Schedule of Agency Actions for Planning Your Amendment to Contract,” an actuarial is required if future costs of the benefit changes would exceed one-half of one percent of the annual costs of the existing benefits.
On Thursday, April 7, 2011, Acting City Manager Ingram told the council that the contract amendment process had been delayed by the “transition” in the city manager’s office and by Seal Beach Police Chief Jeff Kirkpatrick’s decision to retire.
Ingram said staff advised against amending the police contract until a permanent city manager is hired. Ingram said the contract amendment process could take three months.
Ingram said no more police officers will be hired until the contract amendment process is complete.
Seal Beach resident Dr. Robert Goldberg contributed information to this story.