The Detriot News | Group: Wayne County pensions high
Detroit —A national taxpayers’ group is accusing Wayne County of fattening pensions, releasing a report Wednesday showing 40 retirees have pensions of more than $100,000.
“We have found the amounts are very high,” said Christina Tobin, vice president of Taxpayers United of America, which used the Freedom of Information Act to collect the pension data.
Total payouts for those pensioners making more than $100,000 could range between $3.3 million to $5.7 million in their lifetimes, according to the group’s analysis, which assumes individuals retire at 55 and receives benefits for another 30 years.
County spokesman Lynn Ingram said Executive Robert Ficano has implemented several reforms including establishing a “hybrid pension program to get away from the large defined benefit plans that existed well before the current administration.”
Ficano has asked the county’s retirement system to end a 5-1 match for a defined contributions savings plan and moved last year to end a bonus check for retirees.
Josh Franzel, vice president of research at the Center for State and Local Government Excellence in Washington, D.C., criticized the taxpayer group’s methodology and said simply listing top paid retirees is not a good way to assess retirement plans. Changes are being made nationwide, he said, as more governments seek greater contributions or move to deferred benefit plans.
“New employees are getting hybrid plans and defined contribution plans,” Franzel said.
The group analyzed the top pensions of several other Michigan counties, the state police, state employees and teachers. Tobin said they gathered similar data in four other states in its push for pension reform, such as requiring current employees to contribute more and moving new hires to 401(k) systems.
A “top 50” list of Michigan state employees compiled by the watchdog group shows only one with a six-figure annual pension, but 49 more with pensions of between $97,000 and $74,000.