ALBANY — Instead of a gold watch, more and more teachers are getting gold-plated pensions when they retire.
The number of retirees earning six-figure pensions from the city and state teacher retirement systems nearly tripled during the past five years, according to a report from the Empire Center for Public Policy released Thursday.
“The costs keep going up and up,” said the Empire Center’s E.J. McMahon, adding that the rise in six-figure pensions reflects the growth in teachers’ salaries over the years.
Topping New York’s pension list is Queens College history Prof. Edgar McManus, 90, who retired in 2012 after a 55-year career in education and now receives a whopping $561,286-a-year pension. “I was there a long time — it adds up,” McManus, who lives in Manhattan, said Thursday.
Pensions are based on a percentage of teachers’ salaries that gets higher the more years they’ve served. Workers like McManus who take their pensions at an advanced age also get more.
McManus, whose final salary at Queens College was $116,364, boosted his pension by contributing additional money into the system while he worked. He also received credit for time in the military before teaching, giving him more than 60 years of service. “I simply worked in the system for many years and I contributed the maximum amount that was allowed,” McManus said.
McManus is one of 4,481 members of the New York City Teachers’ Retirement System and the New York State Teachers Retirement System who earned pensions over $100,000 in 2014. The number was a stark increase from the 1,663 who earned a six-figure pension in 2009, according to the Empire Center.
Teachers union officials defended their retirees, saying that the average teacher pension is a modest $44,978.