EDITORIAL: CAN WE AFFORD SIX -FIGURE PENSION AS THE NORM?

| Yonkers Times

Six-figure pensions are becoming the norm among retirees from New York’s largest downstate suburban police departments, according to data posted at SeeThroughNY.net, the Empire Center’s transparency website.

Clearly the $100,000-plus pension problem is not restricted to Westchester County. In fact, the worst pensions for the taxpayers of local or county government comes from Nassau and Suffolk counties on Long Island, with three-quarters of the 242 Nassau County and Suffolk County police department officers retiring last year taking with them a pension of more than $100,000.

But next up on the $100,000-plus pension list is in Yonkers, with two-thirds of the 39 newly retired Yonkers police officers eligible for annual pensions greater than six figures, the data shows. The pension amounts do not include added severance payments for accumulated sick or vacation time.

The average pension was $81,260 for all 1,322 Police and Fire Retirement System members retiring in fiscal 2019 after at least 20 years of service. Among new police retirees in fiscal 2019, the highest maximum benefit amounts were reported for Jeff Fabre of Nassau County ($221,086), Anthony Ovchinnikoff of Clarkstown ($198,701), Thomas Cokeley of Ramapo ($180,656), Thomas Papaccio of Nassau County ($179,440), and Edmund Leahy of Yonkers ($177,778).

Currently, the highest paid Westchester retirees in the state retirement system are (note, these retirees did not retire in 2019):

Nancy Taddiken, Edgemont at Greenburgh Central Schools, $236,180; Edward Stolzenberg, Westchester Health Care Corp, $224,015; Phyllis Glassman, Ossining Union Free Schools, $213,053, NYS Teachers Retirement System; Richard Organisciak, New Rochelle City School District, $212,382, NYS Teachers Retirement System; Dennis Lauro Jr., Pelham Union Free Schools, Westchester 2 BOCES, $207,180, NYS Teachers Retirement System; Robert Lichtenfeld, Katonah-Lewisboro Union Free Schools, $206,229, NYS Teachers Retirement System;

Also: Bernard Pierorazio, Yonkers Public Schools, $205,423, NYS Teachers Retirement System; Paul Fried, Paul, Mamaroneck Union Free Schools, $202,523, NYS Teachers Retirement System; Kenneth Connolly, Lakeland Central Schools, $200,956, NYS Teachers Retirement System; and Joanne Marien, Joanne, Somers Central Schools, $199,563, NYS Teachers Retirement System.

Newly posted pension data at SeeThroughNY.net also includes retirement benefits for 402,419 individuals who retired as members of the New York State and Local Employee Retirement System, which covers nearly all other non-teaching public employees outside New York City. Among 7,368 members retiring in 2019 after at least 30 years of service, the average annual pension benefit was $50,497.

The list of top pension earners in system was topped by Shashikant Lele, a former surgeon and professor at Roswell Park Cancer Center ($436,356); followed by Paul Scott, a surgeon at Nassau County Health Care Corp ($328,127); and Leonard Barrett, also a surgeon at Nassau County Health Care Corp ($315,104). Statewide, another 22 newly retired members were eligible for pensions exceeding $200,000.

The complete SeeThroughNY.net database includes maximum pension allowances for 436,872 retirees from state government, public authorities, counties, towns, villages, cities not including New York City, special districts and school districts.

The Empire Center, based in Albany, is an independent, not-for-profit, non-partisan think tank dedicated to promoting policies that can make New York a better place to live, work and raise a family.

The one unanswered question from this list is: Why are there little or no retired cops or firefighters on the list of top pensions outside of Yonkers? What are these communities doing right to control their pension costs and what are the Westchester County Police and the Yonkers Police Department doing wrong?

© 2019 Yonkers Times