Findings from TUA’s pension project on Grand Rapids, Michigan, are featured in the following video by WOOD-TV 8.

Updated: Tuesday, 06 Dec 2011, 8:07 PM EST
Published : Tuesday, 06 Dec 2011, 5:40 PM EST

  • By Anne Schieber

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) – A retired teacher in Michigan will receive $6 million in a pension payout, the highest government payout in the state, claims a taxpayer advocacy group.
Taxpayers United of America is researching and publishing top government pensions across the country and was in Grand Rapids Tuesday to release their state findings.
The group is highlighting government retirees getting a guaranteed pension through what’s known as a defined benefit program.
In Grand Rapids, the group claims, the highest annual pension being paid by the city is more than $96,000 per year. Based on a life expectancy of 85, that payout tops $3.4 million. That’s followed closely by payout among police and fire retirees – $3.3 million.
The top payout in Kent County is $2.5 million, and the next 24 pensions on each list all exceed $2 million.
“Our hope is to shed light on this issue,” said Christina Tobin, the VP of Taxpayers United of America. “Taxpayers see these names. They have a connection. This is my neighbor.”
The group also looked at pensions for judges, state workers and teachers.
Most government workers receive guaranteed pensions. In the local private sector, only 7% of workers get them, according to The Employers Association.
Defined benefit plans for government workers have been in place for decades, and were designed to make up for lower government salaries.
“That situation doesn’t exist today,” said the group’s Rae Ann McNeilly, adding government workers “are paid almost twice as much as those in the private sector, on the national level.”
County Administrator Daryl Delabbio told 24 Hour News 8 on Tuesday in an email statement that Kent County doesn’t offer retiree healthcare. Instead, he said, the county offers a monthly stipend of up to $350 depending on how long the retiree served the county.
Delabbio said that Kent County’s Other Post-Employment Benefit (OPEB) is lower than that of many other counties.
“For instance,” he pointed out, “Kent County OPEB liability is roughly 35-36 million dollars; Wayne County’s OPEB is over 800 million dollars.”
Delabbio also said that “Kent County’s pension system is managed very well, is funded appropriately, and we have taken steps over the past 18 months to modify pension contributions by employees and retirement eligibility to further contain our costs.”
City and county commissioners, the city manager and the state teacher’s union did not respond to a request for comment from 24 Hour News 8.