No one should fault retired Hartford Police Chief Daryl K. Roberts for getting a cushy pension. He was a top executive with hundreds of people under his command. He worked for decades under contracts with the city and fulfilled his part of them. But his case presents yet another argument for restructuring public sector pensions.
Mr. Roberts, 53, is receiving an annual pension of $128,422. He retired on Dec. 31 but is being paid for unused vacation time through May 31, officials said.
In addition, Mr. Roberts received a lump-sum payment of $272,046 for other unused vacation, sick and holiday time, and will receive lifetime health care benefits.
At least Mr. Roberts is retiring at less than his working salary, which was $156,800. Some of his contemporaries have retired on more than they made on the job by loading up on overtime and private jobs in their last years of work. Mr. Roberts was able to use two years of unused sick time to increase his pension; thus it is based on 32 years of service instead of the 30 he actually served.
Those were the rules when Mr. Roberts served; he just complied with them. But public safety employees retiring in their 40s and 50s put a major strain on the pension fund. The mayor and new council must fight for wage and benefit packages the city can afford. Pensions bolstered with income from overtime, private jobs and unused sick days must stop, at both the municipal and state levels, because they are unsustainable. Pension funds are not bottomless money pits.
Pensions are going away in the private sector. Governors elsewhere are making political hay by demanding the end of collective bargaining. To keep a very good package of benefits, unions need to relinquish the ones that that stick taxpayers in the eye.
Hartford has made some strides toward fiscal sanity. Last January the council tightened the rules for non-union employees, among other things ending the exchange of unused sick time for pension benefits and requiring workers to wait until age 62 to collect a full pension.
The city is now in negotiation with the police union. The taxpayers will be rooting for the removal of overtime, private job income and unused sick and vacation days from the pension formula.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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