alan-berkowsky-2010

Retired Evanston Fire Chief Alan Berkowsky started a new job this week — as fire chief in Winnetka.

Berkowsky, 52, reportedly will earn $122,500 a year in the new job.

After 28 years of service on the Evanston Fire Department, the last six as chief, he also collects a pension of roughly $100,000 a year from the Evanston’s firefighter’s pension fund.

Village Manager Rob Bahan told the Winnetka edition of TribLocal that Berkowsky would have to serve 10 years as chief there to collect a pension from the village’s fire pension fund.

Berkowsky was chosen for the Winnetka job from among a pool of 60 candidates after the village’s previous chief, Scott Smith, retired last November.

The Winnetka Fire Department has a staff of 24, about a quarter the size of Evanston’s.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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32 Comments

  1. Congrats on the double dipping!

    This story crystalizes everything that is wrong with municipal government. No one should be retiring at age 52 with full pension. He will be collecting $100k a year for life (probably adjusted for inflation) and then will collect more from the City of Winnetka in 10 years. It's like winning the lottery twice! We need to put a stop to this practice immediately and move all public employees to a defined contribution system.

     

    This is also a fine example of what happens when public sector unions negotiate with the politicians whose campaigns they have bankrolled. The result is inevitably exorbitant contracts which future generations of taxpayers are forced to pay for even though those taxpayers were never represented at the bargaining table to begin with.  Heck, I'm probably paying for the luxurious retirements of people who retired before I was even born! 

     

    This is why Scott Walker is taking on the public sector unions in Wisconsin. The system is completely corrupt and broken.

    1. Pensions aren’t inherently

      Pensions aren't inherently bad. Public employees contribute to their own pensions, just like private employees contribute to social security (most pension beneficiaries are not eligible for social security, or they take a pro-rated amount counterbalanced by their pension, like teachers).

      And yes, your precious tax dollars are paying for this man's luxurious retirement at the fine young age of 52… but he did a job, day in and day out, that endangered his life; a job that most people aren't physically or mentally or emotionally capable of, and a job that most people wouldn't do no matter how much you paid them. He's running into burning buildings to save people… people like you.

      Firefighters work awful hours, long shifts. We can't repay him for dedicating his life to saving other people's lives, which is why we give firefighters a pension. It's why we give teachers a pension – because no amount of money can really compensate them for the sacrifices they make, but we can sure as hell try.

      This man isn't "double dipping." He's taking his pension, a pension he contributed to. You shouldn't denigrate him for that.

      And if you think unions are a bad thing, maybe you should refresh your memory as to why we have them: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triangle_Shirtwaist_Factory_fire

      1. Danger, pensions and sacrifices

        How exactly does a Fire Chief endanger his life day in and day out?  Isn't that basically an executive-level position?  Are fire chiefs on the fire trucks with the rest of the crew?

        I always hear this argument that firefighters compensation is justified because the job is so dangerous.  I understand that the job is dangerous, but there are a lot of dangerous jobs out there that pay a heck of a lot  less.  A U.S. soldier in Iraq or Afghanistan gets paid much less.  A commercial fisherman makes much less.   An oil rig operator makes much less.  A roofer makes much less.  These jobs are as dangerous or more dangerous than a fireman's job.  So why are firefighters paid so much more?

        They are paid more because their union has been able to negotiate compensation levels above market rate.  I guarantee you that if there were no union and no state laws mandating pensions for government employees, the City of Evanston (and all other municipalities) would be able to field a team of firefighters of the same quality for substantially less money.  The reason why firefighters and other unionized public sector employees are able to make as much money as they do is because their unions buy off the politicians who negotiate with them at the bargaining table through their political donations.  And all of us taxpayers pay for it.

        I don't understand this attitude that government employees are entitled to a pension.  Why?  Why can't we just pay them a salary?  If they want to take some of their salary and put it away for their retirement then that is their responsibility.  Why do I have to pay to ensure that public sector employees have a comfortable retirement?  Nobody is looking out for my retirement but myself.  Why shouldn't public sector employees be any different?

        And don't even get me started on teachers.  Precisely what "sacrifices" are teachers making that entitle them to outsized pay and benefits?  What, do they want the other 3 seasons off of work in addition to the summer?

         

    2. You are assuming that all union members enjoy these benefits …

      … and that is clearly not true.  This situation is ridiculous, and I think that almost all taxpayers would agree that it is.  I am confident that most voters would like to see something done about this.  And keep in mind Scott Walker exempted police and firemen in his attempt to break the unions, so scenarios like this will still exist even in his world.

      I also find it interesting that so many who oppose these pensions find it acceptable that military vets qualify for some extremely lucrative lifetime benefits (tuition, healthcare, etc.) and no one seems to have much of a problem with that.  Given the number of vets, this amounts to a huge amount of monetary obligation.  The argument always is that they 'put their lives on the line', just like firemen and police.  Some combat vets certainly do, but what about those vets who had some office job for a few years and then qualify for benefits that no one in the private sector could ever dream of?  Our bloated military budget is so in part because of this burden– where's the outrage?

  2. For the Record

    Wisconsin Police and Fire departments were exempt under Gov. Walker's attack on public sector unions in Wisconsin.

    1. Correct
      They were exempted but only I think because Walker felt it would be too difficult to pass otherwise. In my opinion Walker did not go far enough. There should have been no exemptions and all public sector bargaining rights should have been revoked.

      This, along with a federal constitutional amendment limiting political contributions to human beings only ( no Corps and no unions) and we would go a long way towards combating corruption in our government.

  3. No pension reform until Democrats are voted out

    Why did Berkowsky decide to retire anyway? In another 10 years he can retire and collect two pensions, getting a cool $150-175k a year for life- and taxpayers pay for it. What a racket.

    This is the perfect example of why current union pension benefits need serious reform immediately – the union double dipping and spiking is shameful and disgusting.

    The Evanston firefighters still get their annual pay raises and overtime and none have been laid off during this Recession. Meanwhile, the city, county and state raised taxes in part to pay the skyrocketing pensions that is bankrupting cities, towns and states. Property taxes keep going up as property values decline. 

    The only way we will get reform is to vote in Republican candidates because unions support Democrat candidates 95 percent of the time. And we all know how loyal Democrats are to government unions. Why they would flee the state house and go in hiding to avoid a vote that is not favorable to unions.

    Hard hit Evanstonians should demand the city close down one of the two Central Street Fire Stations and lay off some firefighters. Perhaps city officials can get Berkowsky to agree to a tri-city fire service after Evanston closes down a fire station or two and lay off firefighters. That would make fiscal sense but these government union employees seem to only care about gouging taxpayers until nothing is left but vacant homes.

    Oh wait, that's already happened in the Fifth Ward. It's the voters' choice.

    1. Blame the Constitution, not the Dems

      considering the state of Illinois' economy, Democrats would love to be able to make changes to the pension program. The problem is that our state constitution strictly prohibits ANY changes to someone already in the system. Can you blame democrats of previous years? Absolutely. But Republicans also neglected to fund the pension program. The ironic part is that the pension language was written into the 1970 Constitution because the program was so severely underfunded. Now look at us now…

      Knee-jerk reactions of "who's to blame" does nothing to this discussion. We're in serious trouble regarding the pensions in this state. Look, I'm a strong Dem and I want to slash pensions and unions just as much as anybody else. But we can't. We can only move forward with future employees – which the General Assembly already did last year.

      1. No guarantee state will pay bankrupt pension system

        Wrong.

        According to a legal opinion by the Chicago law firm, Sidley Austin, there is no guarantee the state will step in and pay the funds if the government union pensions run dry.

        The Sidley opinion argued that the state can become a guarantor only under section 2l2-403 of the Illinois Pension Code. That provision states that if a state pension fund runs out of assets "(a)ny pension payable under any law . . . shall not be construed to be a legal obligation or debt of the State . . . but shall be held to be solely an obligation of such pension fund, unless otherwise specifically provided in the law creating such fund."

        So far, government unions have not made the necessary sacrifices, and as we can see with Berkowsky, have abused an unsustainable system with double dipping and spiking.

        1. yeah, i know

          That's not what I said. I fully recognize this. But we are legally bound to incur this debt. We cannot change it for people in the current pool. It's that simple. There may very well be legal fights in the near future as many in Springfield would like to test the courts on this one. However, it does not sound promising…..

  4. If you’re not

    If you're not outraged by this then you're not paying attention or you don't pay taxes. Somewhere a union fat cat is smiling and laughing at us silly taxpayers. Wake up, America. Public unions are the enemy.

  5. But is the pension pro-rated ?

    If someone retires at 52 or 55 or whatever their age, the pension should be prorated as a portion of what it would be at 66. 

    I hear different versions of whether football players get pensions, but you would not expect them to get a pension after five or ten years that was equal to a pension they would get if they retired at 66.

    Even football players who on average have short playing time realize that they must prepare for the future.  So they get other training or law or business degrees so they can do something else when they quit playing.  They don't ask for a pension like they retire at 66 then go to another team and play for that team until their next retirement. 

    Yes firemen and policemen can have hard lives in those jobs, but that does not mean they are [or they themselves put] "out to pasture" at 52.  Like most of society, including football players, they must realize few keep jobs for life and that we all will have many types of jobs until 'full-retirement' at 66.  Smart employees know when starting a job you start preparing for their next job after that—by continuing to develop your skills to keep the present job as long as possible, 'next job' is a promotion for new skills learned or obtain new skills for a new company and type of job.

  6. Vote Republican!

    Yes Evanstonians, by all means vote Republican to get rid of unions! Elected Republican officials will also be glad to quickly relieve you from other taxpayer burdens such as home mortgage deductions, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Head Start, and a host of other worthwhile social programs.

  7. Contact your state legislators

    The only way for change to occur is for Springfield to enact new laws to eliminate the abuses available under current legislation. There are many situations like this one which stress the financial viability of the pension plans and enrage taxpayers who are struggling to pay their mortgages, taxes, and save for retirement. Providing a "fair" pension for our hard working public employees is necessary and appropriate. Our public employees should not be vilified, but our energy should be directed towards the legislators who enact the laws and can make the changes.

    Contact :

    State Senator Jeff Schoenberg – senator@jschoenberg.org – 847 492-1200

    State Representative Daniel Biss – repbiss@gmail.com – 847 568-1250

    State Representative Robyn Gabel – robyn@robyngabel.com – 847 424-9898

    Better yet, stop by Sen Schoenberg's and Rep Gabel's office at 820 Davis Street

    You can visit Rep Biss at 3706 Dempster Street in Skokie

  8. Public Employee 401-k not Pensions

    If public employees [including fire and police] were given 401-k plans instead of pensions—like most companies do:

    1. The employee would know how much they are getting at any point of time

    2. The government body would have to make the payment on time—i.e. always at the pay period and thus the public would know the real cost instead of some mystical payment later or having an un-funded obligation hanging over their head

    3. The employee would determine how they want to invest their 401-k money

    4. The money would 'go with them' if they changed jobs—it is their money, not the city's/state's nor in city/state coffers or IOUs.  Also the fund would not be subject to later city/state changes in law, pension reform, city/state bankruptcy

    5. Double-dipping would go away since the 401-k payments for job one would cease when the person moved to job two

    6. Promotions just before 'retirement' to boost 'pensions' would disappear since 401-k contributions would cease with retirement and even if a 'boost' was given, any added 'contribution' would go only from that date to retirement.

    ===========================

    My understanding is [from a public sector accounting course years ago] that at major reason pension reform was undertaken to prevent companies from having an exponential or even hyperbolic vesting of pensions.  I.e. where you only became vested very close to retirement, thus retiring early [even a year or two short]  or getting fired, etc. meant little or know pension.  I think most people assumed that the vesting would be some what linear [maybe after an initial period like five years] so that [assuming a 40 year work cycle so less say start work at 26 and retire at 66] if you retired early you would get a linear pension for your time worked.  If you changed jobs the same rule would apply—years worked on new job as fraction of the 40 year work cycle.

    Instead public employees [only ones I know of except maybe armed forces] got to retire at 50, 55 or after 20 years of service and got full or almost full pensions. 

    Public companies are always accused of bad policy and accounting but in this case it seems it is the governmental bodies that are playing the game with funds.

  9. I am sick of the Unions and

    I am sick of the Unions and Democrats. I wish we had an election coming up so we could straighten out this mess. It is time for change! I am paying more in taxes than ever and have 2 kids I am saving for college education. Indiana seems to get it, what are we missing?

    Don’t get me wrong, we have the best Police and Fire Department but I know they would agree Pensions are out dated. 401K takes responsibility and what they should be using.

    Can someone please let me know how I can get involved with the Republican Party in Evanston? Or more importantly, can I do anything now to fix this now?
     

  10. What a bunch of whiners! 

    What a bunch of whiners!  Some posters here sound jealous that they didn't pick a job with a pension!   Didn't think about that, did ya, when you were in your 20s looking for a job — job with pensions were plentiful then too!  What Berkowsky did is not illegal and it happens all the time!  And it probably isn't going to change anytime real soon.

    And this quote is real classic: 

    "How exactly does a Fire Chief endanger his life day in and day out?  Isn't that basically an executive-level position?  Are fire chiefs on the fire trucks with the rest of the crew?"  Are you serious?  Do you think he was just hired off the street as Fire Chief?  Get real.  He spent nearly 30 stinkin' years on the job, working his way up — like most of us do with our careers, and was at the top of the pay scale for that job.  Why stay at a job when you can't make any more money?  Would you? just for the fun of it??

    Congrats Chief, you served Evanston well for 30 years and you'll have wealth of experience to bring to Winnetka.

    1. Not at risk
      I was responding to the point that the chief was risking his life day in and day out. That may have been true at some point in his career, but certainly not for as long as he had that or any other management level position. That may have been the last 10 years of his career. Or 3,650 days in and 3,650 days out (less weekends, plentiful vacation time, holidays, sick time whether actually sick or not, and any of the other giveaways public sector employees enjoy)

  11. I think you forgot…

    Congratulations Chief. All these comments complaining about pension seem to take away from the fact that congratulations are in order to Chief Berkowsky. The pension system is the one that's in place now. Deal with it.

  12. Don’t worry the system will go broke!

    Don't worry the system will go broke soon enough.

    What is interesting to me, using the example of the $100,000 pension at age 52 for 30 years of service, is what did the individual paid into the system?

    My guess about $200,000 to $300,000 dollar maximum.  What is a pension  of $100,000 worth if  it was a 401K paying out about 4 percent a year  About $2,500,000. Given this pension is starting at 52- Maybe its worth $3,500,000.   

    Given the city pension funds for both police and fire are about $80,000,0000 fund ( if not less)  and we have about 250 employees ( assuming pension valued at $1,500,000 on average ) – the city might need about $375 million dollars to cover this mess.  That is why they will go broke. 

    Of course I am being more conservative – not using the city numbers and accounting numbers which assume many variables – and peg the problem at $180 million.  Did the NU professor tell you the number was higher. 

    City budget at 90 million – and declining –

    The reality is the elected officials  ( city council members )promised these pensions but had no means to pay them – so they are really not worth the paper promises they are printed on.

    They will go broke! 

  13. The Triangle fire. Wow.

    The Triangle fire. Wow. The union stalwarts we have been forced to listen to for the past year (by enabling media), certainly dig deep in the archives to justify their existence.

    Unions started out – almost a century ago – for perfectly noble reasons: safety and employer collusion. Those were noble people of yore. A far cry from later generations of unions, opportunistically and single-mindedly extracting wages and benefits.

    Talk about mission creep. No, the modern unioner is not noble creature. It takes a certain kind of person to so brazenly do what this somewhat ethically challenged fire chief did. The fact that the Dem machine allowed him to do it is no excuse. Its still rapacious.

  14. Do the right thing

    I don't want to pile on the Chief for what was a very distinguished career in Evanston and I'm sure he will serve his new employer equally well.  He is taking advantage, right or wrong, of a broken system.  I don't think pensions should just be swept away from public employees, but wouldn't it make sense to limit it to one tax funded pension per person that can't be collected on, barring disability, until at least age 60? 

    Take the larger pension, keep the tactic of a suspect promotion six months before you retire so that pension bumps up,  but for the sake of common sense just limit it to one pension.  Who would be against this?

    Finally, just because something is not illegal doesn't make it right.  Double dipping on pensions to this very high dollar amount is, in my opinion, tantamount to stealing from all the tax payers that are paying the bill, and that's wrong in my book.  

    1. splitting hairs…

      …but is it "double dipping" if the salary and pension comes from a different tax base?  His Evanston pension is a sunk cost–it gets paid whether he works or sits at home by the fire.  And even if he EARNS a pension from Winnetka, those costs are paid from local, municipal funds, not statewide taxes.  His current salary and pension have nothing to do with Evanston.

      Know what I mean?

  15. Love the outrage ….

    So, let me get the argument right … You are outraged that a man that served thirty years .. Worked long hours, spent time away from family, put his life on the line to save you, worked his way to the top, and claimed his legally entitled benefit is somehow putting something over on the tax payers … Did I get it right?

    Let me ask a question … What about the MULTITUDES of people  who contribute NOTHING yet receive benefits from the city, state, and federal governments? Where is the outrage to this? Why can someone get SSI, welfare, WIC, food stamps, free medical care, free education, free housing, etc. yet they have never been a contributing member of society? Why are you not demanding our lawmakers do something about this? At least the public sector employees are providing a service to you! They protect you, educate your children, clean you streets, provide you with water, etc. and yet they are criticized and belittled for the repayment of their service and sacrifice that was promised to them when they accepted their positions.

    Maybe the public sector employees should just quit their jobs, become addicted to drugs, have children they can't support, and sponge off the tax payers. Seems like you don't have the same outrage for these people that you have for the people who have dedicated a large part of their lives for you.

    1. I’m against that stuff too
      Hey I’m not too fond of any of the practices you mentioned above either but that was not what the article was about. Just because one type of abuse is not as bad as another doesn’t mean it isn’t still wrong.

      Also in my opinion I don’t think he should be legally entitled to the benefit. Again, we have two parties in cahoots at the bargaining table- the union and the politician who is on the take. They conspire to steal money from the taxpayers in the form of outsized compensation packages. I don’t see anything legal or ethical about that process. And I won’t shed any tears if the states and municipalities declare that they are unable or unwilling to pay the benefits any longer.

    2. Unoins are like foxes guarding the hen house

      Let's be clear – we are in a severe and prolonged Recession with national and state unemployment hovering around 9-10 percent for the past two years.

      Most of the job losses have been in the private sector. And if they didn't lose their job, their raises and salaries were frozen years ago. The state government (all Democrats) borrowed $8 billion last year just to pay another year of government union pensions, and they want to borrow more this year. The federal government (all Democrats) passed a $1 trillion stimulus bill without reading or debating the bill, and a lot of it went to keep government union employees working.

      The only growth industry in the past two years has been government. And while private sector businesses struggle to survive (they can't simply raise taxes for needed cash infusion)  Democrats in a lame-duck session raised the business income tax 48 percent and individual income taxes 68 percent.

      And let's not forget that since 2006, property taxes have consistently climbed while property values declined. Cook County sales tax went over 10 percent during the Recession. Last year, Evanston taxes went up, gas taxes – up, water and sewer rates – up. While most people struggle to stay afloat they get hit with more taxes and fees.

      Meanwhile in Evanston, government union employees still get their annual pay raises. Not ONE Evanston firefighter has been laid off in this Recession, and it was only last year, three years into a Recession, did the city finally decide to layoff union employees. However, the city then decides to create a 311 Call Center and hire 20 more union employees. Not one state union employee has been laid off. Even unions in the U.S. car industry got preferential treatment when the federal government took over those companies.

      So excuse us if we are outraged when a 52-year-old fire chief retires with a guaranteed annual six-figure pension and then gets another six-figure job in a neighboring town and would qualify for another six figure pension in 10 years when he's 62. Guess who pays for his pensions? Not just Evanston taxpayers – all Americans who pay taxes.

      The primary reason why Illinois has the worst bond rating in the nation and is nearing fiscal insolvency can be traced to the unsustainable government union pension system where union employees can retire at age 55 with 50-75 percent of their final salary guaranteed for life with a guaranteed 3 percent annual pay raise and nearly free healthcare. 

      And if you look at the incestuous relationship between unions and the Democrats you will see a clear pattern of favorable and preferential  treatment. The rest of us not in unions are paying dearly for the jackpot pensions that folks like Berkowsky enjoy.

      The insult is that Berkowsky negotiated supposedly on behalf of taxpayers with the Evanston Fire Union during last year's budget cut proposals. Three firefighters were laid off but the Evanston Fire Union sued the city, which then rehired the three firefighters and agreed to let a third party decide any future layoffs in return that the union drop the suit. Can you imagine a private company agreeing to let a third party decide any future layoffs?

      There isn't ANYONE in the city looking out for the average Joe in Evanston who has sacrificed dearly in this Recession.

      It's time for the government unions to make sacrifices. And the only way for that to happen is for people to stand up, get involved, campaign, donate and vote for candidates who will take the unions head on.

    3. Multitudes on food stamps

      "Let me ask a question … What about the MULTITUDES of people  who contribute NOTHING yet receive benefits from the city, state, and federal governments? Where is the outrage to this? Why can someone get SSI, welfare, WIC, food stamps, free medical care, free education, free housing, etc. yet they have never been a contributing member of society?"

      Oh yes…those guys on Medicaid and WIC have it easy…the government just makes life too easy for them..

      I believe that public employees deserve decent retirement benefits..they are extreme in some cases, but I don't like idiots like Walker or Kasich trying to smash the public employees unions.   I also don't have a problem with the chief starting a new job after retiring.

      But if you think that there are MULTITUDES of people just sitting around recieving food stamps while you are out there working, you clearly don't understand how where the Federal and State governments spend their money.

      "welfare", WIC, and "free housing" are a drop in the bucket compared to defense (much of which is necessary, but a lot is just pork for contractors),  agricultural subsidies and payments (many Republican Congressmen are receiving these..),  and of course Medicare ( a good program…but most  well-off older people have consumed a lot more in services than they paid in ). Medicare is also a money tree for physicians.i   Even "food stamps" is a program that benefits the agriculture lobby.

      Then of course there are other government spending policies designed to keep the banks, real estate industries, and Goldman Sachs afloat….billions and billions of dollars there.

      Yet instead of complaining about all of these wealthy people living off the government, you choose to target people getting by on "food stamps" for your scorn.

  16. Who started this anyway?

    This entire issue started because Wally Bobkiewicz wanted to reduce Chief Berkosky's salary, which would have reduced his pension. Berkowsky was forced to leave in order to preserve his pension. After all, Berkowsky is not a fool.

    Then Winnetka hired retired Berkowsky, a retired person earning a nice pension or really didn't need a job.  They would have done a greater good had they hired some employed fire chief. Had they done that, that chief would have been left a void that would need to be filled and ultimately, at the bottom of the ladder. a new fireman would have been hired.  Or not.

    City management everywhere seems to make one lousy decision after another. As for Berkowsky, he hasn't done anything wrong; he's merely done the best for himself that he can.  Entirely legally and by the rules. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

    As for all of you righteous folk who are railing against Berkowsky because he followed the rules that city management and alderman agree to, let's put this in perspective. You're part of the same crowd who took advantage of ridiculous lapses in financial regulation that allowed banks to offer no income verification mortgage loans that led to the housing bubble. Did you decline to participate?  Let's face it, we all dug in to our advantage.  And now we're all paying for it.

    Do I agree with the present system by which fire and police get these outlandish and unsustainable retirement benefits?  Absolutely not. Unions are screwing us.  City management and aldermen are weak negotiators with a vested interest in making unions happy. The system is screwed up and it's time for change.  It doesn't matter whether fire and police people agree or not. This will soon cave in on itself (like the housing bubble) and they will find the well dry. I hope they have a plan B.

    1. And you were doing SO well…

      …up until you claimed that police and fire retirement benefits are "outlandish." 

      Even the wealth mongerers of the "Civic Committee" of the Commercial Club of Chicago, those perpetrators of the lie that "Illinois is Broke" admits:

      "Of the 67 firefighters who retired last year after at least 20 years working — holding ranks from commissioner to firefighter and paramedic — almost all will be entitled to a pension of at least $5,000 a month."

      "Almost all" will make at least 60K per year.  Is that "outlandish"?  That's also averaging in top-brass retirees' salaries.  60K per year, minus taxes (yes, we are ALL taxpayers) and health insurance (NO, we don't get free health insurance–yet another benefit myth.)

      1. Fairly outlandish, yes

        $60K per year for life plus cost of living increases plus (I presume) heavily-subsidized health care benefits until the date of Medicare eligibility for just 20 years of service is pretty outlandish in my book.  The health care benefits alone would bring the total benefit to $70K or even $75K to $80K per year depending on the coverage. 

        If these folks are retiring at age 50, they could be collecting for 35 years.  How much money would someone need in their 401K to collect $60K per year (inflation adjusted) for 35 years? It's probably somewhere about $1.5 million.  How many people who have worked for just 20 years have that much accumulated in their 401K right now?  Very few if any.

        And no one in the private sector who retires after 20 years of employment will be having their employers cover or heavily subsidize their health insurance costs until the date of their Medicare eligibility.

        So yes, I would say those benefits are outlandish.

        And also, the statement "almost all will be entitled to a pension of at least $5,000 a month" does not mean that $5,000 is an average.  It means that out of, say, 100 retirees, 90 or so will collect $5K a month or more. The top-brass' salaries does not inflate that $5,000 figure in any way shape or form.

        1. Presume away, you’re stiil just wrong.

          There is no healthcare subsidy!  Retired firefighters pay FULL-COST for insurance after separation from the city.

          As far as "averages" are concerned, you don't know for a FACT what the actual benefits for those retirees are, so how can you assume (sorry, "presume") to know that the top-brass benefits are NOT inflating the averages?

          Also, for every retiree who is fortunate enough to match his time of service to the length of his retirement, there are many more who die prematurely from occupational cancers and other diseases.

        2. Please cite where you found

          Please cite where you found the information on free / discount health care for retirees. All the information I have is the retirees pay 100% …($1,800 a month) for a family plan. If you have info on this free / discounted plan, I'm sure the employees would like to know where they can sign up!

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