Police budgets across the country have grown consistently in recent decades, and Charlottesville’s is no exception. Since 2006, the Charlottesville Police Department’s spending on personnel -- where the vast majority of dollars given to police departments go -- has increased by a third, according to data obtained from the Charlottesville Police Department through an open records request.
Where that money goes under the broad ‘personnel’ banner is perhaps more interesting: Spending on salaries, overtime, and payroll taxes have each grown by about 20 percent. That’s a surprising figure in its own right, but controlling for inflation it’s practically a wash.
On the other hand, spending on benefits (like health insurance and pensions) has gone up by a whopping 86 percent.
That increase in benefits spending is primarily driven by spending on the police pension fund, where the City has spent more than $34 million since 2006. (In the same 14 years, the City has spent $9 million on police overtime and nearly $100 million on salaries for full-time officers.)
Pension spending as a percentage of full-time salary spending as grown significantly since 2006, too.
Police collect the same pensions as any other City employee as a share of their income, but they -- along with employees of the sheriff and Fire Department -- have two mechanisms for potentially collecting more in pension payments over their lifetimes:
Public safety employees have earlier retirement ages than non-public safety employees.
Between the date of their early retirement and the date of their Social Security eligibility, retired police officers can collect a Social Security supplement in addition to their regular pension, which effectively boosts police pension payments during that window by 2/3.
The City’s Retirement Commission, charged with overseeing the City’s pensions, meets at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, August 26. Maybe we should ask them.
You can find the data and code used for this report on Github here. I’m bad at Git, so apologies in advance.