Teachers, principals, superintendents and other public school employees in the Capital Region who retired last year with at least 30 years of service earned an average pension of $60,466, according to new data from the Empire Center.

That’s slightly higher than other upstate regions, but lower than the Finger Lakes, Mid-Hudson and Long Island regions, where pensions for recently retired long-time employees averaged $61,400, $79,777 and $86,800, respectively.

Statewide, the average pension was $67,476. This excludes New York City pensions, which are funded by a separate public pension system.

“We wanted to get a look at what the career employee was leaving with,” said Ken Girardin, a spokesman with the Empire Center for Public Policy, a fiscally conservative think tank based in Albany. “To do that, we thought this 30-year time span would be good to look at. If you worked for 10 years when you were in your 20s and can’t collect until you turned 55, those numbers would skew the picture.”

The New York State Teachers Retirement System is the second largest public retirement system in the state and one of the 10 largest retirement funds in the nation, managing more than $110 billion in assets, according to its website. For every $1 paid out in pensions, 87 cents comes from investment earnings and member contributions. The rest is from employer contributions.

The number of employees eligible for pensions of $100,000 or more grew from 1,255 in 2010 to 2,664 in 2015, according to Empire Center data. Thirty-nine retirees were eligible for pensions of $200,000 or more, and four were eligible for pensions topping $300,000.

The top pension earner to retire in the 2014-15 school year was longtime educator and Long Island school administratorRichard Nathan, who most recently served as superintendent for the Lindenhurst School District. His pension is $211,585.

“They’re focusing on one year, whereas we look at the big picture of all of our retirees, not just those who retired last year,” said John Cardillo, a spokesman for the Teachers Retirement System. “We’re long-term investors, and we invest contributions and investment returns throughout that 30-year career that the Empire Center is using. So to focus on just one year doesn’t seem inclusive to me.”

The average retiree in the system (regardless of length of service) earns an annual pension benefit of $42,000, he said. Most retirees in the system (about 80 percent) receive less than $60,000 a year.

The Empire Center is in the midst of a seven-year legal battle to obtain pension data on former New York public employees. Names and pension amounts were historically available until 2009, when the think tank requested data on New York City police pensions and received the dollar amounts with names redacted.

In 2014, the state Court of Appeals affirmed a legal challenge brought by the Empire Center years earlier, requiring the names of state and local government retirees who receive pensions to be subject to public disclosure.

© 2016 Times Union

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