“There were some people who retired before the cap was implemented who received more than 100 percent (of their salaries),” said Weintraub, adding he did not know offhand how many of the city’s retirees are making more than 100 percent of their last active year’s salary. “That is why the council negotiated the cap with the employee unions at 100 percent.”El Monte’s practice of paying its employees a higher rate in retirement benefits means its employees can reach the 100 percent threshold in a shorter period of time.Pasadena, Pomona and West Covina compensate retired employees at rates ranging from 2 percent to 2.5 percent at age 55. So if a Pasadena employee were to retire at 55 after working 30 years with the city, he or she would receive 75 percent of his or her final year salary per year in retirement, based on the city’s 2.5 percent at 55 formula.If that same employee were to work 40 years, he or she would get paid 100 percent of their final year salary. And if they stayed on the payroll until age 70, they would receive 13 percent more per year in retirement than they were paid while working for the city. El Monte is one of the only major cities in the San Gabriel Valley whose workers cannot earn more in retirement than what they made as employees, according to city officials.El Monte, with a population of 126,000, pays its non-law enforcement retirees about 3 percent of their highest yearly salary for every year worked until age 55 — at least half a percent more than its counterpart cities with more than 100,000 population in the Valley. But it caps those benefits at 100 percent of the total they were making per year at retirement time, said Matthew Weintraub, a city spokesman.The other 100,000-plus cities — Pasadena, Pomona and West Covina — do not place caps on their general employees’ retirement benefits. El Monte capped its benefits, according to Weintraub, because of residents’ concerns that the plan made it too easy for the employees to earn more as retirees than as active workers. But El Monte pays its general employees a 3 percent rate if they retire at age 55 and above. That means an El Monte employee with 30 years of service by age 55 would only need to work until age 59 to make 102 percent of their last year’s salary in retirement.West Covina pays its retired employees the same rate as Pasadena — 2.5 percent at 55. Pomona was the most frugal of the cities, paying 2 percent at 55. That means a Pomona employee with 30 years under his or her belt at 55 would make only 60 percent of his or her final year’s salary. They would have to work until age 75 to get up to 100 percent.All four cities compensate public safety employees under a different formula — 3 percent at age 50 — but cap benefits at 90 percent of final year salary. That’s because police and firefighters are usually paid more than general employees and typically reach their 3 percent threshold at age 50, said Ed Fong, a spokesman for CalPERS, which manages pensions for most California public agencies.“With 3 percent at 50 or 55, if you have someone able to work a long time you would be getting into the 100 percent range and beyond a lot more (without caps),” said Fong.Fong said most cities do not place caps on retirement benefits for non-public safety employees, likely because those who make it to the roughly 40 years of employment needed to reach 100 percent benefits are rare.“The average CalPERS retiree retires somewhere short of 20 years of service,” Fong said. “Thirty years or more is not typical.”That is the case in Pasadena, said Janice Torres, that city’s recruitment manager.“It is pretty rare when employees go beyond 100 percent,” she said.El Monte Mayor Ernie Gutierrez said capping general employees’ retirement benefits was necessary in order to avoid leaving future councils with an undue financial burden.“We don’t want to have our retired people making more money than they did when they were employed,” Gutierrez said.Capping retirement benefits could be a way to alleviate some of the burgeoning pension costs facing cities as the baby boomer generation reaches retirement age, said Alec Levenson, a labor expert at the Center for Effective Organization at USC’s Marshall School of Business.“To cap at 100 percent does not seem to me a particular hardship,” said Levenson. “But it also depends on what percentage of employees are getting more than 100 percent in retirement benefits. If it is only 2 to 5 percent, it may be a case of making a mountain out of a molehill.”El Monte’s caps could end up backfiring in the long run by causing the city to lose its competitive edge in recruiting city employees, Weintraub said.“In the short term this addresses the community’s concerns,” said Weintraub, adding that some employees with many years invested in the city were upset at the 100 percent cap. “But in the long term we may have shot ourselves in the foot by losing high quality, high-value individuals who know the community but who might leave for better benefits elsewhere.”[email protected](626) 962-8811, Ext. 2306160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!