Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Lagerkvist: NJ $100K pensions double in 5 years

Retired New Jersey officials with $100,000-plus public pensions double in five years

The ranks of retired public officials who collect more than $100,000 a year from New Jersey pensions have more than doubled in the past five years, according to a NJ Spotlight analysis of state Treasury data.

When 2015 ended, 2,296 retirees were collecting six-figure pensions from state pension plans. It is a 131 percent increase above 2010, when the count was 992.

The top of the “$100K Club” is loaded with retired school executives. Former Essex County College president A.Z. Yamba leads the pack with $195,000 in annual retirement pay. Of the 30 pensioners who get $150,000 or more, 22 retired as educators.

But in sheer numbers, police and fire officials are predominate. Nearly half – or 1,131 pensioners – belong to the Police and Firemen’s Retirement System.

Of those PFRS retirees, 93 percent – or 1,050 – took advantage of a “special retirement” provision in state pension law. It allows law enforcement officers – but not other public employees – to collect full benefits after 25 years of service, regardless of age.

Ironically, the largest state pension plan – the Public Employee Retirement System – has comparatively few members in the $100K Club.

PERS has roughly 160,000 retirees, more than half of the state’s 300,000 pensioners. But just 172 – roughly one-tenth of one percent – get pensions of $100,000 a year or more. PERS is comprised of government workers who are not in the plans that cover educators, law enforcement and the judiciary.

Overall, less than one percent of state retirees belong to the $100K Club.

The complete story – and a database of state retirees collecting $100,000-plus annual pensions – are online at NJ Spotlight – http://www.njspotlight.com/stories/16/03/13/the-list-retired-nj-officials-with-100-000-plus-public-pensions-doubles-in-five-years/

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Mark Lagerkvist is a veteran investigative reporter who has worked for CNBC, News 12, Asbury Park Press, New Jersey Watchdog and other newspaper, television and online news outlets. His work has won more than 60 journalism awards, including honors from National Press Club, Scripps Howard Foundation, and Investigative Reporters & Editors (IRE). He can be reached at Mark@Lagerkvist.net.

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