Pittsburgh workers' pensions at root of debate
Share with others:
Pittsburgh employees' pension benefits are at the root of the current debate over whether to privatize public parking garages.
The benefits due to retirees depend on when they were hired, what job they performed, how much they earned and how long they stayed. Some collect full pensions alongside Social Security checks, while others do not.
All city workers must stay with the city for 20 years to retire with full pensions. Police and firefighters also must be at least 50 years old, paramedics must be 55 and other workers must be 60 to get full pensions. Early retirement is possible, but with significant penalties.
The pensions don't come for free. Firefighters contribute 7 percent of their paychecks to the pension fund, police contribute 6.5 percent and other employees contribute 5 percent. Those employee contributions are expected to total $9.7 million next year, while the city is scheduled to pitch in another $46.5 million, including an anticipated $15.4 million in state aid, according to Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's proposed budget.
The city can't trim benefits due to current employees. Police and firefighter pensions are determined largely by state law, while most other workers' pensions are governed by labor agreements. Only firefighters include overtime in pension benefit calculations.
These examples of the city's pension benefits are based on the ages, salaries and years of service of representative employees:
• A 51-year-old police officer hired in 1989, earning $59,000 (not including overtime) in his highest 12-month earnings period, would get a pension based on an average monthly base pay of $4,917, times 50 percent, plus a $20-a-month increment for time worked beyond the 20-year minimum, for a total of $2,478 per month. He hasn't paid into Social Security while working as a city officer, and so he isn't due Social Security benefits.
• A 55-year-old police lieutenant hired in 1975, earning $73,000 (not including overtime) in his highest 12-month earnings period, would get a pension of $3,392 a month, including a $350-a-month increment for time worked beyond the 20-year minimum. He would not collect Social Security.
The average currently retired city officer, age 55 to 59, gets a monthly pension of $2,249, according to data the city filed with the state.
• A 56-year-old firefighter hired in 1987, earning an average of $94,000 (including overtime) over his highest three earnings years, would get a pension based on average monthly earnings (including overtime) of $7,833, times 50 percent, plus a $60-a-month increment for time worked beyond 20 years, for a total of $3,976 per month. He would not collect Social Security, into which he hasn't paid.
The average currently retired city firefighter, age 55 to 59, gets a monthly pension of $2,922.
• A 56-year-old paramedic hired in 1976, earning an average of $49,000 over the last three years, would get a pension based on an average monthly salary (not including overtime) of $4,083, times 50 percent, totaling $2,042. Having paid into Social Security, he could collect that benefit alongside that full pension.
• A 60-year-old attorney hired in 1981, earning an average of $83,000 over the last three years, would get a pension based on an average monthly salary (not including overtime) of $6,917, times 50 percent, totaling $3,458. He would also collect Social Security.
• A 61-year-old account clerk hired in 1989, earning an average of $30,000 over the last four years, would get a pension of $1,250 per month, and Social Security.
The average currently retired city worker, age 60 to 64, who is not a police officer or firefighter, gets a pension of $1,103 a month.
First Published October 19, 2010 12:00 am