The State Worker

See the 100 highest pensions in the CalPERS and CalSTRS systems

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How much does it take to make it into the 100 top-earning CalPERS or CalSTRS retirees? A pension of more than $219,000.

CalPERS is the retirement system for most state employees. CalSTRS is the retirement system for most certificated school district employees.

Both systems have faced scrutiny for years due to large unfunded liabilities — they don’t have enough money at the moment to pay all the benefits they have promised. In response, both systems have increased the required contributions for local governments that are part of the system.

Most CalPERS and CalSTRS retirees will never make anywhere near the pensions earned by the top-earning 100 retirees. The 100 top-earning CalPERS employees, for instance, make up about one-hundreth of 1 percent of CalPERS beneficiaries. The pensions paid to them in 2016 were equivalent to about one-tenth of 1 percent of all benefits paid to CalPERS beneficiaries.

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In the CalPERS system, the highest-earning pensioner in 2016 was Michael D. Johnson, who retired as Solano County administrator in 2011, following 43 years of public service, the latest CalPERS data show. His 2016 pension was about $390,000.

A few employees in the CalSTRS system received large, one-time payments that do not reflect their annual pension. The Bee excluded those employees from its analysis by removing CalSTRS retirees who earned a 2017 payout that was 50 percent higher than their normal pension.

After that adjustment, the highest-earning pensioner in 2017 was William Habermehl, who served as Orange County superintendent of schools until retiring six years ago. He retired with 47 years of state service. His 2017 pension was about $370,000, according to the latest CalSTRS data.

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