New York Times highlights PERS payments, woes
The financial problems being caused by Oregon's lavish public employee retirement payments made the front page of Sunday's New York Times.
The April 15 story cited the high pensions being paid to retired OHSU President Joe Robertson and UO football coach Mike Bellotti to help explain why local governments are laying off employees and cutting service to pay for the increasing cost of the Public Employee Retirement System.
The article says that Robertson is being paid $76,111 a month and Bellotti is receiving more than $46,000 a month from PERS.
"That is considerably more than the average Oregon family earns in a year," the story says of Robertson's payment.
According to the article, both payments are based in part on revenue the two men generated for their institutions before retiring. More than 2,000 retirees are already being paid over $100,000 a year, a number that is expected to increase as more state workers retire.
The story is headlined, "Strange math leaves pensions in pinch of their own making." It also documents efforts to reduce pension costs passed by the Oregon Legislature that were struck down by the Oregon Supreme Court.
The story cites numerous examples of local goverments cutting programs to raise money for mandatory PERS contributions that are growing faster than the recovering economy. They include Klamath Falls, which cut back on road and bridge mainteance when its biennial PERS payment recently increased $600,000. The Beaverton School District got rid of 75 teachers last year when its contribution rose by $14 million. And Josephine County has cut sheriff's patrols, closed its mental helath department and kept its jail at least than half capacity because of a shortage of guards.
And, the story says, the increases expected to continue until the current generation of retirees start dying. Newer employees are enrolled in a different program that pays less.
"Across Oregon, local officials have been told to brace for 15 to 20 more years of rising pension bills," says the story, which continues on a full page in the first section of the newspaper.
Other states with similar problems cited in the story include New Jersey, Kentucky and Connecticut.
You can read the story at tinyurl.com/y85aw8hj.