Three cities in Orange County are ranked among the top 25 in California when it comes to retirees who make $100,000 or more.
A report released Wednesday by Transparent California, a watchdog group that tracks pension expenses, listed Santa Ana, Anaheim and Newport Beach as the 5th, 6th and 23rd top cities in the state’s $100K club.
Other Southern California public agencies in the top 25 include Riverside, Santa Monica, Glendale, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, Burbank and Pasadena.
Overall, the group said the number of retirees with annual pensions of $100,000 or more grew 63 percent in the past five years.
Local cities described pension debt as a big and growing hurdle.
“Our unfunded pension liability is among our most challenging fiscal issues,” Newport Beach City Manager Dave Kiff wrote in an email Wednesday, Aug. 9.
In Newport Beach, 141 of about 970 retirees are collecting more than $100,000 in pensions. The city will pay CalPERS, the agency that manages pensions and health benefits for city and other public workers, about $50 million this fiscal year, $33 million of which will go toward long-term debt payment. The city’s total long-term debt — most in the form of pensions — is estimated at $300 million.
The rise in $100,000 pensions underscores the importance of making public employee pension data public, Robert Fellner, Transparent California’s research director, said in a news release.
Transparent California is an offshoot of the Nevada Policy Research Institute, which describes itself as a “nonpartisan, non-profit think tank that promotes policy ideas consistent with the principles of limited government, individual liberty and free markets.”
A spokesman for Californians for Retirement Security, a coalition of unions and other groups representing public employee retirees, took aim at Transparent California.
“‘Transparent California is neither transparent nor in California,” Steve Maviglio said. “It’s a Nevada-based anti-union group that refuses to disclose its donors, so the irony of publishing the salaries of teachers, firefighters, school bus drivers and other public servants shouldn’t be lost on anyone.”
Maviglio added: “This distorted data represents less than 2 percent of all of the state’s retirees, most of whom had long careers in top level positions in some of the most expensive areas of the state. The average state pension is approximately $2,700 per month and the…