Friday, July 15, 2011 – 12:10 p.m

So what’s driving the high S.B. County pensions?

It’s a combination of factors that has led to an ability to abuse the system.

Few taxpayers, and apparently state legislators, failed to realize just how lucrative public pensions have become.

Especially in San Bernardino County where a significant number of compensation elements can be combined with an employees base salary to inflate the pension formula.

Unlike the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS), where such so-called spiking is prohibited, certain counties preserved the right to form their own pension system under California’s 1937 County Employment Retirement Law (CERL).

Twenty counties, including San Bernardino, possess the ability to set their own retirement guidelines and fund their own systems.

San Bernardino County allows employees to earn pensions up to 100% percent of their earnable compensation.

Earnable compensation is defined as an employees base salary plus whatever other allowances the county has allowed to be added to inflate the base salary figure.

Depending on how many years of service an employee works, and their age at retirement, an employee can retire at an amount greater than 100% of their final annual salary.

In San Bernardino County any retiree who started his or her service before January 1, 1974 receives an extra 7% and can therefore retire at 107% of earnable compensation.

General employees can retire at age 64 and get 3.14% of their earnable compensation for each year of service up to 100%.

Public Safety employees receive 3% for each year of service at age 50 up to a maximum of 100%.

Originally the reward for working in public service was the pension benefits offset sub-par pay.

Now both salary and retirement benefits paid to high-placed county managers and executives has skewed the public perception against employees.

An unfortunate circumstance to say the least.

Here is a partial list of items factoring into San Bernardino County pensions.

                                        Annual
Type                                    Amount
Automobile Allowance                    $14,400.00
Flexible Benefit Allowance              $ 6,000.00
Electronic Communications Device Allow. $ 2,400.00
Uniform allowance                       Varies
Suppl. Retirement Allow.Paid in Cash    Varies
On-Call Pay                             Varies
Flight Pay                              Varies
Shift Differential                      Varies
Vacation Leave Cash-Out                 Up to 160 Hours at highest hourly rate
Holiday Leave Cash-Out                  Up to 112 Hours at highest hourly rate
Administrative Leave Cash-Out           Up to  80 Hours at highest hourly rate
7% Retirement Pick-Up Paid in Cash      Varies - Employees with 31+ years only
Bilingual Pay                           Varies