The California primaries and many local elections have passed, and now voters are gearing up for November, when the president of the United States will be decided and local runoff races will be settled.
In the meantime, citizens are left to mull over the possibilities of certain candidates taking office and incumbents keeping their seats.
Certainly this is the case for Merced County voters.
For the Board of Supervisors races, three seats were up for election June 7 and it looks like two will head to a runoff.
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In one of those, District 2 incumbent Hub Walsh is challenged by Lee Lor.
Lor has campaigned on the notion that District 2, and Merced County as a whole, needs new blood.
There’s one issue that’s been mentioned to me more than once in this race: Walsh’s benefits if elected to a third term. He’s served on the board since 2008, for two terms.
Letters to the editor have been published in the Merced Sun-Star multiple times over the years criticizing the idea supervisors get lifetime retirement after serving three terms.
While thinking about it, I asked myself, is that really true? What exactly is the policy on this?
Q: Do supervisors get special benefits after serving three terms or 10 years, and what are they?
A: Supervisors receive the same retirement packages as any other county employee, said Mike North, a county spokesman.
While it’s technically correct that some supervisors may receive pensions for the rest of their lives after they retire, their retirement depends on many factors.
There’s no policy that gives any special benefits to supervisors once they’ve served three terms or 10 years.
The retirement formula factors include the age at retirement, amount of retirement service credit, final average salary and tier, according to the Merced County Employees’ Retirement Association member handbook.
All county employees begin vesting, or are entitled to receive a pension upon retirement, after five years of service to the county, the handbook says.
Once a supervisor retires, he or she also is eligible for the same health benefits as other retirees, North said.
Let’s go back to Walsh.
If he’s elected to a third term, he will accumulate 10 years of service, and, using the county’s retirement calculator, he’d be eligible for retirement by the time he was 70. He’ll have paid into the system for 10 years, not a working lifetime. And since the county’s retirement plans are designed benefit plans, with payments reflecting length of service, that would affect how much he gets.
But another board member, District 5 Supervisor Jerry O’Banion, may end up receiving pensions for the rest of his life based on his age and how long he’s been on the board. O’Banion was elected in 1990 and began his service in 1991.
Like supervisors, other county elected officials also can be eligible for retirement.
However, most city council members in the cities of Merced County only receive health benefits.