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On the list of earners

School board says the superintendent has unique circumstances that lead to his high pension earnings
by:  Korach

Since news broke that Lake Oswego School District Super-intendent Bill Korach is the eighth highest pension earner in Oregon, he has taken some heat from community members astounded at the amount of his monthly earnings.

According to public rec-ords released in November, Korach receives $20,069 each month through the Oregon Public Employ-ees Retirement System.

The Oregon PERS office released a list of retirees and their monthly earnings after a legal settlement with the Salem Statesman Journal and The Oregonian. Favoring government transparency, Oregon Attorney General John Kroger ordered the list released, though public employees argued that making the information public was an invasion of privacy.

The data included only retiree names and monthly payment amounts on Oct. 1.

Korach is among 311 state retirees who pull more than $10,000 a month. There are a number of factors inherent in the state retirement system that have contributed to his high pension.

The Lake Oswego School Board recently released a document explaining the unique circumstances that led to Korach's lucrative retirement earnings.

When Korach, 66, officially retired March 1, he had been in the state system for 42 years. Employees in the system are eligible to retire after 30 years or at age 58.

Unlike most school employees in the state, 'he has served as an administrator for the majority of his public service career,' according to the school board's document, 'and is currently the longest-serving superintendent in the state of Oregon.'

Korach became a high school principal when he was still in his 20s. He has served as the Lake Oswego superintendent for the last 25 years. Because of that he has been compensated at a higher rate of pay for a longer period of time than many others.

Though he is best known as the Lake Oswego schools superintendent, he has also earned pension-eligible compensation working for other school districts in Oregon, teaching workshops for the Oregon Department of Education, presenting professional development workshops, serving as a witness in expert witness in teacher fair dismissal cases and teaching graduate classes at Portland State University and Lewis and Clark College.

Like many other of the state's high pension earners, Korach started his public career before 1996, which makes him a Tier 1 retiree. The PERS system was reformed after that year, but state legislators promised employees hired prior to 1996 a guaranteed 8 percent return on their investments. Before that time, the PERS Board often passed earnings on to members with an even higher match during good years instead of putting the money in reserves.

Korach's Tier 1 account balance upon retirement was $1.2 million. It funds half of his monthly benefit.

Korach also had a money match account, which is funded by the school district. Most Tier 1 employees in the PERS system have a money match account that is matched by their employer when they retire.