Feb. 14--San Rafael will stop paying the employee share of City Manager Nancy Mackle's pension, but pension reform advocates say the city's decision to compensate her for the change flies in the face of reform efforts.
The city will no longer give $20,650 to the Marin County Employees' Retirement Association for Mackle's share of her pension. But to make up for the additional money she'll have to place in her own retirement fund, the city agreed to increase Mackle's salary by 5.4 percent, or $10,185 per year, to a total of $196,692 annually.
Under her new contract, she'll receive an additional $10,000 a year to place in a 457 deferred compensation retirement plan for government employees and an additional $465 a year in management allowance.
Mackle said the City Council recently required its other employees to pay the employee share of their pension contribution, so she was next in line.
"It's a new day and they feel employees need to pick that up," Mackle said, adding that it doesn't bother her.
Jody Morales, head of Marin'sCitizens for Sustainable Pension Plans, said having Mackle pay for the employee share of her pension is a logical step that should have been taken years ago.
"I don't know when it became the thing to do to pay the employee part of the pension," Morales said.
But she was frustrated to learn of Mackle's salary increase and other benefits.
"That's ridiculous. They made a gesture and gave it back to her in another form," Morales said.
This is a typical move in the government sector, according to Bill Monnet of Sausalito, a retired financial manager and member of Citizens for Sustainable Pension Plans. He said it's a positive step to have Mackle pay the employee share of her pension, but confirmed her salary increase will ultimately spike the amount of money she'll receive as her pension when she retires.
Pension benefits are largely determined by a worker's average salary over their three highest salary years, typically the last three years of employment. Mackle said she's not thinking about retirement just yet.
"I'm only 55. I'm not retiring anytime soon," Mackle said.
Councilman Andrew McCullough, who sits on the city's pension reform subcommittee, said having a slightly larger pension liability for Mackle was necessary to bring her in line with the pension payment plans of other employees.
"It's the price we pay in order to ensure we have uniformity," McCullough said. "She was the sole exception to a policy we've adopted in the city."
Monnet said it's up to the City Council to determine what their workers are worth and how much to pay Mackle, but cash-strapped cities and towns should be mindful of doling out more money.
"What bothers us is when so much of the compensation is not paid, but simply added to debt," Monnet said.
Contact Megan Hansen via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter at http://twitter.com/hansenmegan. Follow her blog at http://blogs.marinij.com/bureaucratsandbaking.
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