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Public pensions a travesty

Published: Sun, January 27, 2013 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Bertram de Souza (Contact)

First a reminder about the public pension system in Ohio: It is shrouded in secrecy with regard to the amount of money paid out to individual retirees.

You, the taxpayers who contribute to public employees’ pension plans, are permitted by law to only two pieces of information: one, whether an employee is retired; two, the salary at the time of retirement.

In an attempt to appease newspapers around the state demanding an end to the secrecy, the pension system has tossed out a bone — the formula used to calculate pensions.

It is as follows: The average of the three highest-paid years of public employment, multiplied by 2.2 percent, multiplied by the number of years employed.

Health care

Thus, an officeholder earning $100,000 a year (there are many more of those than you may think) in his three highest-paid years with 30 years of service would get an annual retirement of about $66,000. He would also receive benefits such as health care. (It is noteworthy that the value of the benefit package is never added to the bottom line.)

However, because of the secrecy, we will never know if the formula is legitimate, or is a ruse.

The issue of public pensions is in the spotlight — again — because a change in the cost-of-living adjustment is going into effect this year. Instead of a flat 3 percent annual increase in retirement pay, members of OPERS will get an adjustment based on the Consumer Price Index. That increase could be about 1 percent this year.

Thus, there is a rush to retire now so as to lock in the 3 percent for the foreseeable future.

But that does not mean they are leaving their cushy jobs. There are elected officials in the Mahoning Valley, for example, who retired before their terms expired, but then ran for re-election — and won.

Thus, they are raking in their annual salaries and their pensions. Unfortunately, we will never know officially how much they’re making, because ... it’s a secret.

We can guesstimate using the formula, but no one in a position to know will confirm the calculations.

Thus, the question: Can a formula be developed that would provide a more accurate picture of a retiree’s pension? Yes, it can.

First, take the established formula — the average of the three highest-paid years of employment, multiplied by 2.2 percent, multiplied by the number of years employed. Then, multiply that amount by 10 to reflect all the benefits enjoyed by public employees at taxpayers’ expense, including use of government vehicles and conferences in exotic places (plush hotels and meals.)

Vacation, sick time

After that, multiply the total amount by 20 in recognition of the brazen attitude of those in the public sector when it comes to vacation and sick time. Unlike the private sector’s “use-it-or-lose-it” rule governing vacations and access to sick leave when legitimately sick, the public sector has turned the two benefits into a gold mine. Not only is accumulation permitted, a percentage of unused vacation time and sick leave can be cashed out at retirement at the employee’s highest rate of pay.

Now, multiply that total by 30, to factor in the in-your-face behavior on the part of elected officials who seek re-election, but retire secretly before voters have had a chance to decide if they want to reward such breach of trust.

Using this formula, the monthly pensions of officeholders and others can easily total hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The Vindicator recently published several stories that focused on the large number of Trumbull County government employees, including officeholders, who have retired but remain on the public payroll.

We don’t know how much money they’re making in salary and pension payments. Salaries are public record; the pensions are not.

It’s an obscene amount.


Then show us your monthly pay stubs and retirement checks all you public employees who have retired, but are still on the public payroll.

Among those who reportedly submitted letters of intent to retire are Sheriff Thomas Altiere, Prosecutor Dennis Watkins, county Commissioner Daniel Polivka, Family Court Judge Pam Rintala, Common Pleas Court Judge W. Watt McKay and Warren Municipal Court Judge Thomas Gysegem.


1chuck_carney(499 comments)posted 2 years, 1 month ago

What's going on? Another good job by Bert.

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2papa1(700 comments)posted 2 years, 1 month ago

people should be outraged and up in arms over this! why isn't it illegal? because so many in important positions do it? this is one of the reasons the country is in such dire economic shape. this is the age of the cheater, whether it's in sports, government, or crime. people thinking they can steal money from little league sports teams and get away with it. why do so many try and do this? are they decent people? maybe, maybe not. they talk about the medicare fraud but do nothing about it. cheating is almost an american sport to see if you can get away with it. it's time people stop being so selfish and start thinking about those who are honest, hard working, and struggling to pay their bills and feed their families and maybe, if everybody does what's right (i know, it's a dream), the country and it's people, will prosper.

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3Snowday(7 comments)posted 2 years, 1 month ago

Would Bert be this upset if he had such a pension plan working at the Vindy?

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4redeye1(4878 comments)posted 2 years, 1 month ago

Hey Bert, What kind of pension plan do you have at the VINDY?

papa Why is it that someone has more then you they must have cheated to get it. You know some people work hard for what they got. Just because they don't give it to others doesn't make them a bad person to anyone, but you. Maybe if you had gotten better education you would be in the same financial situation as the rest of us.

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5redeye1(4878 comments)posted 2 years, 1 month ago

What is the difference between a GM employee or a public employee who retires and get another job. A GM employee can collect their pension and if they are old enough they also can collect Social Securty too, while working a second job. So what is the difference? Can someone please explain that to me.

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6badeepster(119 comments)posted 2 years, 1 month ago

Yay!! In yet another example of the crumbling, soon to be extinct Vindy, we have Bertie deScumbag's 323rd article about public employee pensions. We get it deScumbag. You chose the wrong path in life. You'll soon be pumping gas when the Vindy folds. Why don't you just title these repetitive articles "I'm jealous, and I'll soon be homeless"??

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776Ytown(1316 comments)posted 2 years, 1 month ago

snowday & badeepster are obviously public employees. Can't blame them for being uneasy with anyone looking at their Cadillac benefits. Bit embarrassing that their salaries, vacations and pensions are paid for by the earnings of people who would only dream to have such benefits.

But there is a light at the end of the tunnel folks, we too can become government workers and get the very best pay and benefits. Obama is for big government. Soon the government will have plenty of jobs for all or if we can't find a job with the government, they at least take care of us.

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8Snowday(7 comments)posted 2 years, 1 month ago

Well, then tell Bert and the Vindy to no longer endorse these public officials who are retired and run for re-election....like Mayor Chuck and others.

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9Snowday(7 comments)posted 2 years, 1 month ago

Bert never met a public employee he didn't like. He must have had a really mean first grade teacher who didn't allow him to beat the erasers against the school building after school.

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10Snowday(7 comments)posted 2 years, 1 month ago

Me bad...never had an employee he did like....

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11topo_gigio(1 comment)posted 2 years, 1 month ago

What on earth makes you think ALL public employees make this kind of money? I am a public employee & I am tired of people thinking we ALL are making buckets of money & have all these perks! I make about 30K a year. I pay into my retirement fund. And my health insurance is a high deductible plan. I will pay 5K out of pocket every calendar year before my benefits kick in. I contribute a portion of my check every pay to a savings account to cover my medical expenses that occur prior to my insurance kicking in. And the municipality that I work for contributes nothing to that account like some other municipalities do for their employees, or even like some companies in the private sector. I have no taxpayer funded vehicle to drive. I had to take out a loan to buy my used car & make payments on it like everyone else. I show up for work when I'm supposed to be there very rarely taking any sick time. And I do my job for 8 hours a day. The job I do for the government earns twice as much in the private sector. We are told the reason we are paid so much less for doing the same work is because we get such great health benefits. But they keep chipping away at our benefits every year costing the employees more and more & not increasing our salaries sometimes for multiple years in a row to help us compensate for the rise in costs.

A commenter before me mentions "honest, hardworking, stuggling to pay their bills & feed their families." So are you insinuating that myself & others like me aren't any of those things?

I just wish people would stop assuming we are all greedy, all lazy, all over compensated, and are all around evil people. Yes there are some that make big money, just like any company in the private sector might have their share of fat cats. But don't forget just like those companies have their lowly worker bees that keep the place running, so do your government offices. And we are not just hanging out in a govt building all day laughing at the taxpayers with our hand out. The majority of us are working, doing our jobs, and providing a service.

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12badeepster(119 comments)posted 2 years, 1 month ago

76 I am not a public employee. The rules are what they are and the jealous complain. Most public employees earn less than you think. deScumbag only talks about the very top. Everbody wants what someone else has.

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1376Ytown(1316 comments)posted 2 years, 1 month ago

topp_gigio: Thanks for your comment. Yes, you are correct that not all public employees are over compensated. Unfortunately it is the ones that are being paid egregious amounts that are getting the attention in the time of $16 trillion debt and $1 trillion budget deficits. http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/ticket/wa...

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14papa1(700 comments)posted 2 years, 1 month ago

topo-gigio, your comments were excellent but it sounds to me what bertram was mainly referring to when he said "public workers" were the politicians. let's face it, they are the most proficient, expert, conniving, and selfish cheaters of all. again, great comments. i think you explained it very well. good luck to you.

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15RustOnMyBelt(133 comments)posted 2 years, 1 month ago

Unused vacation time should be paid-out upon retirement.Unused sick time? Your "payment" is that you were blessed with good health so just be thankful for THAT. People should understand,however,that public workers do NOT draw from Social Security later and DO pay taxes like everyone else. Representatives in government jobs should have the same health plans the rest of us have. How can these high-earners make any decisions regarding health care when it may never be a concern for them on a personal level?

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16repeaters(241 comments)posted 2 years, 1 month ago

righteous and indignant.......really? Those of us who railed over the same old names on the ballot, the same old ' it's for the children' school levy baiting, WERE NOT WRONG. Yet, we take a verbal beating from this newspaper and from all those glorious folks with the 'D' after their names and/or groups. NO ONE deserves a COLA included in their pension, especially when it's paid with taxpayers dollars. I should have to adjust my budget every year to the minus so they can have theirs adjusted to the plus? You public sector blood suckers need to trade places with those whom your bleeding dry, and see how you like it.

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17kurtw(1007 comments)posted 2 years, 1 month ago

for: badeepster

It seems to me anyone who writes posts such as yours has forfeited the right to be taken seriously- to be accepted as anything but an illiterate jerk.

If you disagree with the man- fine- that's your privilege but to refer to someone as "descumbag" is loathsome. I guess the Neanderthals didn't go extinct after all- some of them are right here in Y-Town.

P.S. What's your real name? I'll bet if I knew I could figure out someway of making it ridiculous, obscene, or scatological. It doesn't take much intelligence to do that- the brain power of a Neanderthal would suffice.

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18NoBS(2072 comments)posted 2 years, 1 month ago

If deSouza is demanding, or even asking, that anyone reveal their pay stubs, he ought to be man enough to reveal his own. Why won't he?

"He doesn't have to" doesn't cut it. He wants others to reveal information "they don't have to" - he ought to be forthcoming with his information.

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191loaf(100 comments)posted 2 years, 1 month ago

Mr.De Sousa is not often as right as he is on this subject. Not all public employees are parasites but the majority is what gives them that reputation. I think the hard working public workers who are doing their job and recieving a just compensation for it should yell as loud as the private sector workers who are paying the bill. Really they should yell louder because they know who is taking advantage of the system and if they don't speak up they are just as guilty. The only solution is to serve one term and then go back to work for a living and when one retires they can not work in the trade they retired from. The teamsters have have had this rule for many years. As long as the folks allow this and support the crooks in public office today nothing will change. Politics as a career is a recipe for corruption. Harry Reid's son lobbies congress. This is just one of hundreds of relatives of congressmen and senators who lobby for federal funds. Does anyone think they are hired for their lobbying skills?????

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20badeepster(119 comments)posted 2 years, 1 month ago

for kurtw: Sorry to offend you. Now I won't sleep tonight.

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2176Ytown(1316 comments)posted 2 years, 1 month ago


The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis data show that 2011, federal civilian workers had an average wage of $84,671. By comparison, the average salary of the nation’s 102 million private-sector workers was $53,463. And, when benefits such as health care and pensions are included, the federal compensation advantage over private sector workers gets bigger, according to the BEA data. In 2011, federal worker compensation averaged $128,226, or about double the private-sector average of $64,560. The CATO institute states ”It isn’t just rocket scientists that are earning high federal compensation, it is also workers in many run-of-the-mill bureaucratic jobs.”

The analysis by Cato does not, of course, resolve the dispute any more than the findings by the Federal Salary Council.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) stepped into the fray recently. Its study concluded:

The wages of federal workers are 2 percent higher than similar private-sector workers, on average.
The benefits of federal workers are 48 percent higher than similar private-sector workers, on average.
The total compensation (wages plus benefits) of federal workers is 16 percent higher than similar private-sector workers, on average.

In effect, the federal compensation advantage varies by education level according to the CBO. People with low and middle levels of education generally do better in the government, while people with doctorates generally do better in the private sector.

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2276Ytown(1316 comments)posted 2 years, 1 month ago

BornRaised: When comparing salaries, benefits are a big part of what you earn. That's why companies love to provide your year-end benefit statement showing total compensation. Retirement benefits and insurance being huge differences public vs private.

Some studies say that government employees tend to have higher education therefore higher pay. Public sector does not always compensate based on education. There are many college grads in the public sector who are working at jobs in which they are overqualified.



"With Americans increasingly likely to live well into their 80s, critics question whether paying lifetime pensions to retirees from age 55 or 60 is financially sustainable. An Associated Press survey earlier this year found the 50 states have a combined $690 billion in unfunded pension liabilities and $418 billion in retiree health care obligations."

"most private-sector workers no longer receive defined-benefit pensions that will pay them for life. Most must wait until age 65 or 67 to collect their full Social Security benefit or draw from 401(k) accounts that are invested in the stock market and, in many cases, have sustained significant losses during the recession."


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23TheTruth4U(20 comments)posted 2 years, 1 month ago

Outrage is understandable. But it is appallingly misdirected. Here in the Mahoning Valley where we know the value of being in a union, the outrage should not be that our public employees have a job with a pension and good benefits. Our outrage should be at the private companies that have cut their employee's pension and benefits in a race to the bottom. I have been in business for over 40 years, I have never 'bought' the idea that companies could not afford to pay good wages and benefits. My business has always done so and never missed making a profit.

Certainly in a day and age when corporate profits are at an all time high, you have to wonder why they aren't paying good wages and benefits. In Germany, the companies favor their employee unions, have union Board members and pay some of the best wages and benefits in the world.

Outrage? Where is the outrage when Walmart actually advises their new employees on how to get food stamps and other tax-payer provided benefits instead of paying them a living wage and benefits? It has been calculated that doing so would change their bottom line by 1%. Yet they continue to have each of us pay to subsidize their profits. This from one of the most profitable PRIVATE companies in the world, owned by a small number of family members who 'can't afford' to profit 1% less!

Bertram is just a tool of the corporate culture that tries to divide workers, public and private, so we don't look at how they are screwing all of us.

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24repeaters(241 comments)posted 2 years, 1 month ago

This is for all of you who STILL don't get it. http://www.forbes.com/sites/joelkotki...

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