Today's column is about Mayor Sheila Dixon's fabulous, $83,000 annual pension, which she gets to keep despite Wednesday's plea to a perjury count. That's objectionable, but another, even more expensive problem is overly generous pensions for all elected officials in Baltimore and beyond.
Here's how pensions work for Baltimore City Council and mayor. For every year of service you build credit for a life annuity worth 2.5 percent of your final salary. Dixon joined City Council in 1988, so she's been in elected service for 22 years. 22 x 2.5 percent is 55 percent. 55 percent of her salary of $151,700 is $83,435 a year. And that will surely go up: There's a provision that the Baltimore pensions keep up with the pay of whatever office the pensioner vacated. So if the next mayor's salary goes up to $170,000, Dixon's annuity will go up to 55 percent of THAT, or $93,500.
There's more: Elected Baltimore officials can start drawing their pensions at very young ages. You have to put in 16 years of service regardless of age. Or you have to put in 12 years -- three elected terms -- and be over age 50. Dixon is 56, so she qualifies on both counts. These terms are far more generous that what private-sector employees get -- with the exception of very senior corporate executives, especially Fortune 500 CEOs, whose pensions make Dixon's look like lunch money.
As The Sun has been reporting, Baltimore isn't the only place with this problem. From Larry Carson's October story: