The Feb. 26 Columbian story “$104,880: Average pay and benefits at utility” did not set well with me. While I appreciate their service, a salary average that is double that of the rest of the county deserves more scrutiny, in spite of the fact they must attract highly skilled workers who are in short supply. That is not a unique circumstance to the utility.
One aspect of the salary earned by utility employees should be examined. It is my understanding that while they “have access to the state’s public employee retirement system,” many utilities employees retire at 80 percent of their pay rate. By comparison, a public school teacher hired prior to 1977 can retire at 60 percent of his/her highest two years of pay, if a beneficiary is not taken, and after 30 years of employment. Any public school employee hired after 1977 has a far leaner and more restrictive pension plan, and neither comes close to the 80 percent.
We are not talking apples to apples regarding public employees who “have access to the state’s public retirement system.” Nevertheless, teachers endure much criticism for their perceived rich benefits, which are far less generous than those of public employees at the utility.