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Remove the veil of secrecy from public pension system

Published: Sun, June 27, 2010 @ 12:00 a.m.

To understand why public em- ployees in Ohio don’t want you, the private sector taxpayers, to know how much they’re receiving or will receive in retirement payments, consider these eye-popping facts: Last year, about 1,100 State Teachers Retirement System members received on average $67,000 in pension pay while returning to work and earning $70,000 to $100,000 in their post-retirement jobs at school districts; about 32,000 state and local employees collected more than $1 billion in pension payouts last year in addition to the money they’re earning as double-dippers; the pension cost to local governments in the state is $4.1 billion a year, and the number will grow by $604 million to $768 million over the next five years.

Who are the beneficiaries of this largess? State law prohibits Ohio’s five public pension systems from disclosing pertinent details about individual retirees. How much did the worker contribute toward his or her pension and how much did the taxpayers shell out? It’s a secret. How many years did a public employee work before being able to draw a pension? It’s a secret. Indeed, who is getting the pension benefit? That, too, is secret.

In Ohio, nearly 400,000 public retirees receive benefits from the five systems, and Ohioans now pay more than $4 billion a year toward those benefits. To be sure, public employees also contribute, but it’s the non-public taxpayers’ dollars that are prompting complaints about the secrecy.

If we’re paying toward public employees’ pensions, we have a right to know everything about their benefits. Pension records of public employees should not be shrouded from public view.

On Jan. 3, the Ohio Newspaper Organization made up of eight papers, including The Vindicator, reported the results of a statewide survey of Ohio’s pension funds in several news stories. That package was followed last Sunday by stories about the widely used “retire, rehire” provision in the law that has enabled thousands of public employees to work in public positions and collect pensions at the same time.

Common thread

The entire investigative package had a common thread running through it: A significant number of public employees in the state of Ohio are looking forward to annual pensions higher than what most working Ohioans earn and full medical coverage.

But here’s a reality check for the hundreds of thousands of current and prospective pensioners who are worried about the financial stability of the pension plans: The taxpayers of Ohio will not agree to $325 million more in public dollars being used to shore up the various systems.

State legislators who also are eligible for public pensions should quickly disabuse themselves of the notion that public employees have a right to expect their retirement benefits to be guaranteed when Social Security, which most taxpayers depend on, faces insolvency.

If Ohio’s five pension funds are facing future challenges, let the beneficiaries pay to ensure stability.

As for lifting the veil of secrecy, the lobbying power of public employees and the legislators’ own self interest make that a long shot.


1TB(1167 comments)posted 6 years, 1 month ago

I have never been a fan of double-dipping, nor the retire/rehire system in place. It leads to nepotism. Frequently, lack of qualified candidates is cited as a response to questioning the practice. How are candidates supposed to become qualified if the door never opens to them?

I do not agree, however, that the practice is totally secretive. People attending a board of education meeting can garner this information. A simple review of board minutes compared with staff lists can shed light on who receives this benefit.

I do take issue with the Vindicator expressing that public employees don't have a right to their retirement simply because Social Security will likely become insolvent. Two wrongs do not make a right. If someone breaks into your neighbor's house and robs them, you should not simply expect them to do so to your house or accept it when it happens. The failure of the federal government and its elected officials over decades to fix social security is NOT the responsibility of the public employees who pay into their own retirement funds alongside the taxpayer. Please don't forget that this cost is shared.

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2Rokscout(310 comments)posted 6 years, 1 month ago

....and many of these evil public employees pay a whole lot more into retirement than people think.

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3ytown1(398 comments)posted 6 years, 1 month ago

How about an example?

All of the contracts that we have seen from Boardman Township employees show that all contributions toward retirement are paid by the township. Very little toward the Health care, we have also seen comments where the copay's are reimbursed in another give back

How about the accumulated vacation and sick days at retirement? What a windfall the taxpayer has to shell over to just get the dead weight from the payroll.

Anybody have any others. I am sure there is more.

Rokscout don't try and make this into we all see you public troughers as evil. We only see an increasing tax grab to cover the largess given away in so called contract negotiations, yeah Huh that is a stretch calling them negotiations.

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4northsideperson(366 comments)posted 6 years, 1 month ago

Some organizations have an arrangement to reduce salary by the employee's pension contribution amount, which is then paid directly to the retirement system. As "pre-tax dollars", they will be taxed at a lower rate when actually withdrawn. It gives the appearance that the employee contribution is actually paid by the employer.

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5ytown1(398 comments)posted 6 years, 1 month ago


This is only a disguise to the fact that they were supposedly not getting any raises, when the raises were not a good political idea at the time and the fact that the taxpaying public would not stand for.

Then only getting the raises, and signing bonuses and retroactive contracts later.

These things along with a myriad of other complicated job reclassification's and other smoke and mirror tricks. Like letting the arbitrator make the decisions for the politicians and Unions so nobody could point the finger at either? All to keep the taxpayer out of the loop, and ignorant to the facts.

Just like the veil of secrecy described above.

Sweeeeet!! Deal Huh?

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6Rokscout(310 comments)posted 6 years, 1 month ago

So what you are telling me is Boardman Township employees don't contribute to their pensions then? Is this fact?

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7Cowboyfan(105 comments)posted 6 years, 1 month ago

Don't group all Public Workers together, each is backed by a different management group. Some workers have NOT received a raise in I don't know how long. They contribute a lot of money into their funds and they pay for their medical.

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8TB(1167 comments)posted 6 years, 1 month ago

Great point Cbf

"We only see an increasing tax grab to cover the largess given away in so called contract negotiations, yeah Huh that is a stretch calling them negotiations."

You have no idea what concessions have been made within those contracts. True, raises may be given, but employee contributions to health care coverage may have gone up. Benefits may have been slashed. There's a larger picture that the public misses because they aren't at the table.

If you are unhappy with the deals garnered by your elected officials, replace them. Run yourself if you have all the answers.

"How about the accumulated vacation and sick days at retirement? What a windfall the taxpayer has to shell over to just get the dead weight from the payroll."

So I guess what you are saying is that workers should go ahead and take all those days instead of coming in to work.

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9babs68(58 comments)posted 6 years ago

ok...So a comment is made "many of these evil public employees pay a whole lot more into retirement than people think that the do." ....Why am I paying for any of a state employees retirment fund...that's BS. If I have to save into my 401k & Roth IRA's...then heck all of you should be responsible for paying your own way...and not on my dime. I bet these are the same individuals who complain about this socialist society...I say everyone should pay there own way. That is what is wrong w/ society now to many hands out and not enough people taking on there own responsibility. Don't get me started!

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10Rokscout(310 comments)posted 6 years ago

Well babs, based on your comment, I guess the civil service exam was just out of reach. If you work for an employer that matches your 401k contributions, and then covers that cost by increasing the price of whatever service or product you are offering, then someone out there is paying for...gasp...YOUR retirement too. On the other hand, if you work for an employer who offers no benefits such as fund matching or contributing, then I guess that is your poor choice and you are just going to have to iron out these jealousy issues somewhere else.

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11Cowboyfan(105 comments)posted 6 years ago

babs... If you pay into PERS for your whole career you do not qualify for SS. You have to work in the private sector after you retire to collect it. Who do you think is paying for everyone on SSI and welfare. We ALL are. Don't you dare use a Employer matched 401K or Employer medical coverage they get tax deductions and that is coming out of my pocket.

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12Teacher12(27 comments)posted 6 years ago

I call only speak for Teachers. we are required to pay 10% of our pay to our retirement and like in the private sector our employeer matches that much. So, babs68 , we pay for our own. The law also allows us to contribute to 403bs. We as teachers in the state of Ohio CANNOT, I REPEAT CANNOT collect SS unless we work in the private sector for the required period of time. However, our SS would be cut becuase of our pension.
Upon retirement, we have to pay some where between $1000 to $2500 a month for healthcare. its not part of a package

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