Contact: Lise Bang-Jensen
A searchable database of pension allowances for 342,543 retired New York state and local government employees was posted today on SeeThroughNY.net, the Empire Center’s government transparency web site.
The database includes the names, retirement dates and, in most cases, the most recent employer for all individuals collecting pension benefits as of April 13 from the New York State and Local Retirement System (NYSLRS), which includes the Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS) and Employee Retirement System (ERS). Among employees who retired in 2009, the average annual pension allowance was $62,208 for PFRS members and $25,947 for ERS members, according to data from NYSLRS.
NYSLRS covers most employees of the state government, public authorities, counties, cities, towns and villages outside New York City, whose employees belong to separate municipal pension plans. NYSLRS also covers nonprofessional employees of school districts outside New York City.
An Empire Center analysis of the newly posted data found that 1,378 NYSLRS retirees have pensions of $100,000 or more. Retired police and firefighters accounted for two-thirds of these six-figure allowances. While PFRS members are only 8.5 percent of all pensioners, they receive 16.6 percent of total pension payments.
The rising number of police and firefighters with pensions exceeding $100,000 is among the more notable recent trends in the pension data, the Empire Center found. As illustrated by the chart on the next page, the proportion of newly retired PFRS members with six-figure pensions rose from less than 2 percent of those who retired in 2000 to 13 percent of 2009 retirees. The increase in police and fire pensions reflects rising salaries, especially in downstate suburbs, as documented in other Empire Center reports.
The benefit levels shown in the database are maximum allowable benefits, which can exceed the amount actually collected by those retirees who, for example, opt to receive less in order to preserve a continuing benefit for their survivors. As of April 13, maximum annual benefits for retired NYSLRS members totaled nearly $7.2 billion.
SeeThroughNY allows New Yorkers to examine government expenditures on the Internet. Launched July 31, 2008, it includes the wages of 1.5 million public employees, educator pensions, teacher and school superintendent contracts, pork barrel projects and a benchmarking feature to compare local government spending. The Albany-based Empire Center for Public Policy is a project of the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, a non-profit, 501(c)3 think tank.