Public employee pensions need reform.

Des Moines Police Chief Judy Bradshaw has been an exemplary public servant.  She has served us very well as a police officer and as an administrator.  It’s too bad that we are losing her services in the Des Moines Police Department because of the overly generous pension benefit that we have provided for her.

It is no coincidence that she is “retiring” at age 55, and yet will be taking another job very soon.  The current pension benefit provided for all police officers and firefighters in Iowa’s largest cities allows them to retire at age 55 with full benefits if they have worked at least 22 years.  The maximum benefit is 82% of their highest three year’s pay if they have worked at least 30 years.

Bradshaw has worked for the DMPD for more than 30 years.  So, her benefit, payable for the rest of her life, beginning as soon as she retires, will be about $130,000 per year!  The fact that she will immediately begin working at another job will not reduce that benefit.  I don’t blame her one bit for doing the best she can for herself.  She is playing by the rules that we have set for her.  I would do the same thing if I were her.

Most Iowa taxpayers work for private employers that do not offer such a generous retirement benefit in either the dollar amount or the retirement age.  If we offered police officers and firefighters the same dollar benefit at age 65 it would still be very generous but it would also save taxpayers a lot of money.

In order to fund these benefits, our municipal governments are currently being required to pay over 30% of the employee’s pay into the retirement system.  This is causing great stress on city budgets and pushing up property taxes.  We clearly need to reform this system to bring it more in line with the kind of retirement benefits that most Iowans receive.  Please urge your state senators and representatives to do something about this during the next legislative session.

Link to source material regarding police and firefighter pension benefits: http://www.mfprsi.org/site_media/pdfs/Benefit_Handbook_2.pdf

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